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TIN ISOTOPY—A NEW METHOD FOR SOLVING OLD QUESTIONS

Authors

  • M. HAUSTEIN,

    1. Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum für Archäometrie, D6, 3, D-68159 Mannheim, Germany
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  • C. GILLIS,

    1. Department of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Lund,
      Box 117, S-221 00 Lund, Sweden
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  • E. PERNICKA

    1. Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters, Schloss Hohentübingen, D-72070 Tübingen
      and
      Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum für Archäometrie, D6, 3, D-68159 Mannheim, Germany
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Abstract

Tin was a vital commodity in times past. In central Europe, the earliest finds of tin-bronze date to about 2200 bc, while in Greece they are c. 400–500 years earlier. While there is evidence for prehistoric copper mining—for example, in the Alps or mainland Greece, among other places—the provenance of the contemporary tin is still an unsolved problem. This work deals with a new approach for tracing the ancient tin via tin isotope signatures. The tin isotope ratios of 50 tin ores from the Erzgebirge region (D) and 30 tin ores from Cornwall (GB) were measured by MC–ICP–MS. Most ore deposits were found to be quite homogeneous regarding their tin isotope composition, but significant differences were observed between several deposits. This fact may be used to distinguish different tin deposits and thus form the basis for the investigation of the provenance of ancient tin that has been sought for more than a century. Furthermore, the tin-isotope ratio of the ‘Himmelsscheibe von Nebra’ will be presented: the value fits well with the bulk of investigated tin ores from Cornwall.

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