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Representations of oxhide ingots in Scandinavian rock art: the sketchbook of a Bronze Age traveller?

  • Johan Ling (a1) and Zofia Stos-Gale (a2)

Bronze Age trade networks across Europe and the Mediterranean are well documented; Baltic amber and bronze metalwork were particularly valued commodities. Here it is argued that demand for copper and tin led to changes in Scandinavian trade routes around 1600 BC, which can be linked to the appearance of figurative rock art images in southern Scandinavia. Images identified as oxhide ingots have been discovered in Sweden and suggest that people from Scandinavia were familiar with this characteristically Mediterranean trading commodity. Using trace element and lead isotope analysis, the authors argue that some bronze tools excavated in Sweden could have been made of Cypriot copper; these two discoveries suggest that Scandinavians were travelling to the Mediterranean, rather than acting through a middle man.

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H.G. Buchholz 1959. Keftiubarren und Erzhandel im zweiten vorchristlichen Jahrtausend. Praehistorische Zeitschrift 37: 140.

I. Hodder 2012. Entangled: an archaeology of the relationships between humans and things. Maldon (MA): Wiley-Blackwell.

J. Ling , E. Hjärthner-Holdar , L. Grandin , K. Billström & P.-O. Persson . 2013. Moving metals or indigenous mining? Provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts by lead isotopes and trace elements. Journal of Archaeological Science 40: 291304.

J. Ling , Z.A. Stos-Gale , L. Grandin , K. Billström , E. Hjärthner-Holdar & P.-O. Persson . 2014. Moving metals II: provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts by lead isotope and elemental analyses. Journal of Archaeological Science 41: 106–32.

Z.A. Stos-Gale , G. Maliotis , N.H. Gale & N. Annetts . 1997. Lead isotope characteristics of the Cyprus copper ore deposits applied to provenance studies of copper oxhide ingots. Archaeometry 39: 83124.

H. Vandkilde 2014. Breakthrough of the Nordic Bronze Age: transcultural warriorhood and a Carpathian crossroad in the sixteenth century (BC). European Journal of Archaeology 17: 602–33.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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