Skip to comments.Lead isotopes in silver reveal earliest Phoenician quest for metals in the west Mediterranean
Posted on 03/06/2019 11:56:51 PM PST by SunkenCiv
We offer here an answer to one of the most intriguing questions in ancient Mediterranean history: the timing/contexts and incentives of early Phoenician expansion to Mediterranean and Atlantic regions in Africa and Europe ~3,000 years ago. This was enabled by a rare opportunity to analyze a very large sample set of ancient silver items from Phoenicia. An interdisciplinary collaboration combining scientific methods with precise archaeological data revealed the Phoenicians' silver sources. We propose that Phoenicians brought silver to the Levant from southwest Sardinia ~200 years before they de facto settled there, and later, gradually, also from Iberia. We show that the quest for sliver was a major trigger for a long "precolonization" phase, during the 10th to 9th centuries BCE.
When and why did the Phoenicians initiate long-term connections between the Levant and western Europe? This is one of the most hotly debated questions in ancient Mediterranean history and cultural research. In this study, we use silver to answer this question, presenting the largest dataset of chemical and isotopic analyses of silver items from silver hoards found in Phoenician homeland sites. Intertwining lead isotope analysis of silver items with precise archaeological context and chronology, we provide analytical evidence for the onset of Phoenician westward expansion. We suggest that the quest for silver instigated a long, exploratory phase, first in Anatolia (Asia Minor) and Sardinia, and subsequently in the Iberian Peninsula. This phase preceded the establishment of sustainable, flourishing Phoenician colonies in the West by over a century. In so doing, our results buttress the "precolonization" theory, accord it a firm chronological framework, and demonstrate that the quest for silver (and probably other metals) was an incentive for Phoenician westward expansion. Furthermore, our results show that the Phoenicians introduced innovative silver production methods to historic Europe.
(Excerpt) Read more at pnas.org ...
some photos here:
...lead isotopes in Phoenician silver artifacts chart a course of exploration and expansion into Europe and Asia in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE. Phoenician expansion throughout the Mediterranean in the first millennium BCE is a significant cultural inflection point in the history of northern Africa, southern Europe, and the Levant. The reason for the Phoenician expansion is a subject of debate. Tzilla Eshel, Yigal Erel, and colleagues analyzed lead isotopes in silver artifacts from four hoards of Phoenician silver dating to the 10th and 9th centuries BCE. The lead impurities in the silver are an artifact of the silver production process and can identify the metal's source region. In connection with archaeological studies, the authors found that the silver in the artifacts came from regions in Anatolia, Sardinia, and the Iberian Peninsula, with the oldest artifacts identified as Anatolian and the most recent artifacts as Iberian. The results outline a temporal and geographic progression of the Phoenician quest for silver, including the acquisition of silver production methods in Anatolia and a shift to almost exclusive use of Iberian silver in the course of the 9th century BCE. According to the authors, the results suggest that the search for silver established pre-colonization contacts between Phoenicia and the West, and that silver was likely the driving force behind the Phoenician expansion in the Mediterranean.
Silver and the Phoenician expansion | Popular Archaeology | Monday, February 25, 2019 | Winter 2019 Issue
Bump for after work...
From “Bible History: Old Testament” by Alfred Edersheim, concerning trade between Hiram, king of Tyre, and Solomon:
“The success of this trading adventure may have led to another similar undertaking, in company with the Phoenicians, to Tartessus (Tarshish), the well-known great mercantile emporium on the south coast of Spain. The duration of such an expedition is stated in round numbers as three years; and the trade became so regular that afterwards all the large merchantmen were popularly known as “Tarshish-ships” (comp. 1 Kings 22:48; Psalm 48:7; Isaiah 2:16). The imports from Tarshish consisted of gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks (1 Kings 10:22).”
Solomon reigned from about 970 to 930 B.C.(ie, 10th century B.C.). Thus, Tarshish (in Spain) was already a source of gold and silver in the 10th century B.C.
Tarshish wasn't in Spain, although that is often claimed. What the OT account shows is that Solomon's ships were leaving and returning from his port on Aqaba and circumnavigating Africa.
CaphtorThe island Caphtor is named in the Scriptures. The usual identification is Crete, because the Keftiu bringing presents (vases) to Egyptian pharaohs are thought to be Cretans.
by Immanuel Velikovsky
I prefer Cyprus as the biblical Caphtor and the Egyptian Keftiu.
If Caphtor is not Cyprus, then the Old Testament completely omits reference to this large island close to the Syrian coast. The phonetics of the name also point to Cyprus. Separately I show that Tarshish was the name of Crete.
It seems that the Philistines arrived in Palestine from Caphtor following the catastrophe that brought there the Israelites after their wandering in the Desert.
TarshishReferences to the ships of Tarshish and to a place of that name, in the Old Testament, beginning with the time of Solomon (10th century), to the time of the prophets of the 8th and 7th centuries, make me think that by this designation the Cretan navigators and Crete itself were meant. The Minoan civilization survived until the great catastrophes of the 8th century and it would be strange if it and its maritive activities remained unmentioned in the Old Testament.
by Immanuel Velikovsky
The usual explanation puts Tarshish in Spain, though other identifications are offered, like Tarsus, in Asia Minor. One of the old names for Knossos sounds like Tarshish.
New Light On The Dark Age Of Greece, "Tarshish"...So far we have based our discussion of the identity of Tarshish on Biblical sources; but there also exists an allusion to that land in another source, a cuneiform text found about a hundred years ago at Assur on the Tigris. The text is part of the annals of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon, who ruled over Assyria from -681 to -669. It reads:
by Jan Sammer"All the kingdoms from (the islands) amidst the sea -- from the country of Iadanan and Jaman as far as Tarshishi bowed to my feet and I received heavy tribute."The identities of the first two countries mentioned by Esarhaddon are known: Iadanan is Cyprus and Iaman is the Ionian coast of Asia Minor; the location of Tarshishi, however, became the subject of some debate, for this statement by Esarhaddon is the only time the name appears in any Assyrian text. It was noted that "Tarshishi" has the determinative mãt for "country" in front of it, as do Idanana, or Cyprus and Iaman, or Ionia. The only clue to its location was its being described as a kingdom "amidst the sea", apparently somewhat farther removed from Assyria than either Cyprus or Ionia.
When Esarhaddon's text was first published and transliterated the name was read as "Nu-shi-shi." At that time there were several conjectures as to the identification of this land. The city of Nysa in Caria was one suggestion; another was that the world refers to "nesos" for Peloponnesos. In 1914 D. D. Luckenbill ventured that "Knossos, for Crete, would fit better." Three years later B. Meissner made a fresh examination of the cuneiform tablet and found that the original transliteration of the name had been mistaken, and that "Tar-shi-shi" was the correct reading. The new reading took away Luckenbill's chief reason for his identification; yet he had the right solution, even if he reached it on wrong grounds. More recent scholarship identifies the land of Tarshishi mentioned by Esarhaddon with the city of Tarsus in Cilicia. Had Tarshishi been a city the name would have been preceded by the determinative URU; however, as mentioned above, it has mãt for "country". It is also difficult to see how a place in Cilicia would fit the description "from Iadanana and Iaman as far as Tarshishi." Clearly Tarsisi was farther west than either Cyprus or Ionia. These criteria are filled admirably by Crete.
Great article. Thanks!
My pleasure. It's not a bad companion to the article a month or so ago, regarding how megalithic "technology" spread by maritime means.
Thanks for the info on Tarshish.
to assume that trade in silver drove the phoenicians is just foolish.
As you noted, lots of products were involved. In addition to buying, there was selling. It is likely that while trying to sell their stuff, the phonecians were offered silver and that did in fact did increase the trade with sardinia and the trading houses in spain
The sources of the silver is what the study was for, shows the silver source shifted west as the Phoenikes spread that way. I wonder if a similar approach would be fruitful to track the source of tin used to make ancient bronze over the centuries?
Tarshish sounds like a word a guy who had a few too many would say when trying to pronounce something else.
That "tar" syllable in there suggests he was a blatant racist. /s
Perhaps, but it might be more difficult because bronze is an alloy, while silver is pure except for the few unintentional impurities which the study is tracking. If you are tracking impurities in bronze, you would need to demonstrate that those impurities would occur in unique amounts in the alloy from a given geographical area for a given composition of the alloy. That might be more of a challenge because, although bronze is mostly copper and tin, it can also contain other metals.
Wow, a lot here:
Bronze Age Interactions: The Tin Trade
[snip] archaeologists are able to cross-reference the trace elements found in artifacts with naturally occurring concentrations across the world. For example, at shipwreck near Haifa, present-day Israel, numerous tin ingots, with Minoan symbols indicating ingots are from the bronze age, had trace elements of cobalt. Archaeologists must now find a source of tin with similar traces of Cobalt to determine the origin. Yet, they have failed to find an exact match, the closest being Cornwall, present-day England, which has concentrations of cobalt and germanium. [/snip]
Bronze Age tin ingot finds and prehistoric tin sources in Europe and the Mediterranean
[snip] Bronze Age tin ingot finds and prehistoric tin sources in Europe and the Mediterranean: 1 Sursee-Gammainseli. 2 Salcombe and Erme Estuary. 3 Uluburun. 4 Cape Geledonya. 5 Haifa. 6 Cornwall. 7 Erzgebirge. 8 Brittany. 9 central France. 10 Iberian tin belt. 11 Tuscany. 12 Kestel. (Map C. Jäggi). [/snip]
Bronze Age source of tin discovered 
[snip] The site of the mine, Kestel, is about 60 miles north of Tarsus. Yener’s work at the mine and at nearby Goltepe, an ancient miners’ village, provides new insights into the development of the tin industry. Perhaps most important is her discovery that tin can be smelted in crucibles at relatively low temperatures, a finding that may change established theories about economic and metallurgical developments in the Bronze Age Mediterranean world. [/snip]
Enduring Mystery Solved as Tin Is Found in Turkey
[snip] The mine, at a site called Kestel, has narrow passages running more than a mile into the mountainside, with others still blocked and unexplored. The archeologists found only low-grade tin ore, presumably the remains of richer deposits that had been mined out. For this reason, Dr. James D. Muhly, a professor of ancient Middle Eastern history at the University of Pennsylvania, said he was skeptical of interpretations that Kestel was a tin mine. [/snip]
Yes, I could see how that would work if you found tin ingots.
It was interesting just from the standpoint of the find itself, I doubt that I’d read about it before.
from the Robert Ballard keyword:
The Ulu Burun keyword:
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