David Bourgarit Pierre Rostan Emilien Burger Laurent Carozza Benoit Mille Gilberto Artioli

Abstract

In the Early Bronze Age copper production increases dramatically, yet in Western Europe little data is available on linked mining and smelting activity. In the area of Saint-Véran, Hautes-Alpes, ancient mining works testify to large-scale production, estimated at some seven tons of metallic copper per year. The associated smelting site, dated to the end of the 3rd millennium BC, shows particularly advanced technological skill. The mineralogy at Saint-Véran is an exceptionally massive and virtually single-phase deposit. As a consequence, very little beneficiation is required to achieve high-grade ore. The exploited ore is mainly bornite, Cu5FeS4, which is a
particularly copper-rich mineral, compared to the more usual chalcopyrite, CuFeS2. Recent surveys have found large amounts of native copper in the ancient mine spoil heaps so native copper was probably exploited, maybe before the Early Bronze Age. The slag morphology and composition is also discussed. Saint-Véran has thin, homogenous low-viscosity slags, similar to the Plattenschlacke recorded during the Middle to Late Bronze Age in the Eastern Alps. This combination of factors must surely have influenced the early start of copper mass production.

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References
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How to Cite
The beginning of copper mass production in the western Alps: the Saint-Véran mining area reconsidered. (2021). Historical Metallurgy, 42(1), 1-11. https://hmsjournal.org/index.php/home/article/view/199
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