Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The source of Irish chalcolithic and Bronze Age gold : a lead isotope and major element provenance study
Author: Standish, Christopher David
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2012
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Europe witnessed a marked growth in the deployment of exotic materials such as amber, jet and gold; a feature commonly linked to increases in social stratification. Of these, gold is poorly characterised in tenns of provenance which is a significant obstacle if an understanding of the role this material played in prehistoric societies is to be achieved. A combined lead isotope and major element composition provenance study has therefore been perfonned on 67 Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Irish gold artefacts. Methodologies that enable the lead isotope analysis of natural and artefact gold using both solution (external precision <250 parts per million) and laser ablation (external precision <1640 parts per million) multi-collector inductively-coupled plasma massspectrometry were developed. Analyses of 34 Irish gold deposits distinguished a series of gold bearing regions, with isotopic variation a function of source age (Early Caledonian, Late Caledonian and Variscan) and source composition (mantle, lower crustal, upper crustal). Based on lead isotope analysis alone, the majority of the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age artefacts are consistent with southern Irish Late Caledonian or younger mineralisation, with a smaller group too radiogenic to be of Irish origin. However no southern Irish gold source has the high silver (typically 9.5% to 14.5%), moderate copper (typically below detection to 0.79%) and moderate tin (typically below detection to 0.38%) concentrations recorded for these artefacts. Therefore a non-Irish origin for the majority of the gold is favoured. Based on the CUlTent data, southern Britain is considered the most likely source region. Accordingly, the deployment of gold throughout Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Ireland is consistent with wider patterns of exotic material consumption, where distant sources were prefelTed even when local deposits were available. The control of exotic materials is one potential mechanism for individuals or groups to attain power, however there is little evidence for the control of gold procurement during the Chalcolithic or Early Bronze Age. Compositional data favours the exploitation of multiple alluvial deposits within one principle gold bearing region, alongside the absence of centralised fabrication centres. Conversely, preliminary data from Middle and Late Bronze Age gold artefacts suggests greater control over the metal supply due to a) the exploitation of a single, rich, deposit and/or b) the existence of centralised fabrication centres. This highlights a significant shift in the way gold was procured and/or deployed, and offers a new mechanism for the creation of the increasingly complex and stratified societies that began to fonn towards the end of the 2nd millennium BC.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available