The Center for the Study of the Eurasian Nomads (CSEN)

Following is an abstract from the lecture presented by
Dr. Ludmila Koryakova
Ural State University
The Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural
Division of Russian Academy of Science
at the
University of California, Berkeley
April 8, 1998

The Rise of Metallurgy in Eurasia

Metallurgical 'focuses' and provinces

This concept of focus was introduced by A. Yessen and significantly developed by E. Chernykh and others Russian scholars. The term "focus" is understood as a region where similar metal and metal artifacts were produced professionally by a distinct group of skilled craftsmen. The evidence for various types of production rest on, and is largely determined by, four indices: (1) the type and category of artifact; (2) the production technology; (3) the particular chemically and metallurgically defined groups of copper and bronze and; (4) the structure of the social organization of production.

According to Chernyhk's conception, metallurgy in Northern Eurasia­in a general aspect­ went through three main stages and has been described in terms of metallurgical centers and provinces that correspond archaeological cultures.

The basic stages of the metallurgy development were:

(1) The first stage is characterized by mostly pure copper objects found in several cultures dating to the 5th-4th millennia BC. Geographically this stage coordinates with the Balkano- Carpathian metallurgical province which originated under Anatolian influence. After spreading to southeastern Europe in the 5th-4th millennium B.C.metallurgy advanced rapidly and was accompanied by significant social and cultural changes. Producers and consumers alike appeared. First there was an explosion followed by the transformation or stagnation.

The earliest metal in this area was produced by the Tripolye culture (Eneolithic) to the 4th millennium B.C. The Tripolye focus was relatively modest within the advanced central area of the Balkan and Carpathian province. The end of the first stage was marked by visible decomposition of the brilliant Eneolithic cultures in Balkan and Carpathian area.

The beginning of the Bronze Age (3500-3300 B.C.) was marked by many significant events which took place in Eurasia. The new system of metallurgical production replaced the old one. Its territorial expansion was greater and its influence spread over a larger territory (about 4-5 million from the southern Ural region to the Persian gulf, from Syria to the northern Adriatic coast.

(2) The second stage (the 3rd to the first half of the 2nd mill. BC ) the local metallurgy developed in many cultures. Objects of similar form and technology were produced in all the centers. A new metallurgical center emerged in the Caucasus where mainly arsenical bronze and pure cooper items were produced. Tools and ornaments made from arsenic bronze and "pure" copper have been found at many sites. Metal objects penetrated to the north and were introduced into the Pit Grave and Catacomb cultures. This resulted in the formation of the Circum-Pontic metallurgical province which played a very important role in the northern and eastward transmission of metallurgy and the subsequent increased economy.The Circum-Pontic province comprised the metallurgical and metalworking focuses of the Caucasus, Balkan and Carpathians, the northern coast of Black Sea, the southwestern Ural region, and probably Asia Minor

Molds used for Bronze Casting

(3) The third stage - Late Bronze Age (mid 2nd millennium B.C. to the beginning of the 1st millennium B.C.) was characterized by the further geographic spread of metallurgy. The three most influential zones were the Balkano-Carpathian, Caucasian, and Uralian. The largest mining and metallurgical center was at Kargaly in the southern Urals.

Apparently around the mid 2nd millennium B.C. the new metallurgical provinces-- Eurasian, Caucasian, European, and Central-Asiatic--were established. This was accompanied by population movement and the deformation of various cultures. It is very important that in all these provinces the new tin and poly-compounded technology was associated with the Seima-Turbino phenomenon.

Seima-Turbino Bronzes

The main features of the Late Bronze Age of northern Eurasian were: (1) northeastward expansion of metallurgy and metalworking to the Neolithic cultures; (2) introduction of tin bronzes; (3) beginning of a new metalworking technology (thin-walled casting). These four features were found throughout the Eurasian province that covered a huge area from Altai Mountains to the Dnieper River, including the steppe and forest landscapes (Chernykh, 1989).

(4) The fourth stage - iron introduction and its spread (1st millennium B.C.)


The Koryakova lectures were sponsored by:
The Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads
The Archaeological Institute of American, San Francisco Chapter
The Doreen Townsend Center for the Humanitites, Center for Slavic and East European Studies, Department of Anthropology, Indo-European Languange and Cluture Working Groud, Archaeological Research Facility
University of California, Berkeley
(Created April 26, 1998)