Early Copper From the Black Sea Coast Colloquium by Thilo Rehren

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The invention of metallurgy is one of the defining steps in the emergence of complex societies. Recent research is increasingly shifting attention from the traditional debate of a single origin of this technology somewhere in the Middle East to a more nuanced picture with multiple origins, and a stronger emphasis on the Balkans as a major region to drive these developments.

The talk presented evidence for very early copper smelting from the site of Chernomoretz at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Discovered during rescue excavations ahead of tourist development, Chernomoretz has produced remains of a Late Neolithic / Early Chalcolithic settlement with unparalleled evidence for the smelting of ore from the immediate hinterland. Several kilograms of ores, countless partly-slagged sherds of domestic pottery, and lumps of slag with metal trapped in it enable us to reconstruct the process in great detail.

The emerging picture enables us to better understand the sparse evidence from other very early metallurgical sites elsewhere, leading to a much more colourful model of the origins of metallurgy in SE Europe, and beyond.

About the Speaker

Thilo Rehren is A.G. Leventis Professor at the Cyprus Institute and Director of the Science and Technology in Archaeology and Culture Research Center. Trained in the 1980s as an Earth Scientist with specialisation in ore petrology and volcanology, he worked for nearly ten years at the German Mining Museum as senior research scientist.

From 1999 to 2011 he held the Chair in Archaeological Materials and Technologies at the UCL Institute of Archaeology in London, from where he was seconded to establish UCL Qatar as a centre of excellence in Museology, Archaeology and Conservation (2011-2017).

His main interest lies in the reconstruction of high-temperature processes which were used to transform rocks and minerals into metal, glass and pigments. He has worked in China, South and Meso-America, and in numerous countries across Africa, Europe and the Middle East, on material spanning from the 6th millennium BC to the early 20th century AD, and from magnesium to platinum. His former PhD students hold academic positions in China, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and across Europe.