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The metal composition of bronze alloys has been routinely examined as a means of inferring the source of the ore. But bronze is recycled, and the quantity of some components, such as arsenic, is depleted every time the alloy is melted down. Since the Early Bronze Age of the British Isles was largely supplied from a single mine on Ross Island, Co. Kerry, tracking arsenic content shows the number of re-melts and this gives the object a biography and a social context. Applying this ingenious new procedure to their large database, the authors also winkle out other sources of supply and new insights about the technology involved.
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