3,600-year-old Swedish axes made from Cypriot copper
Bronze tools found in Sweden dating from 3,600 years ago were made using copper from the Mediterranean, archaeologists have shown. They now also believe that rock carvings of ships found in Bohuslän, Sweden were visual documentation of trade between ancient Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.
|Two massive shaft-hole axes made with Cypriot ores - a shaft-hole
axe of Valsømagle type, dated to 1600-1500 BC |
and a shaft-hole axe of Fårdup type, dated to 1600-1500 BC [Credit: L Granding]
The ancient Cypriot copper industry produced relatively pure stuff, which was smelted into “oxhide ingots”. Oxhide ingots were not made of cow pelts. They were Bronze Age copper slabs that looked like nothing so much as stretched hides, with four extruding corners that were used to carry them. Corners to carry them would have been a great convenience because they were horribly heavy – about 37 kilos each.
|Lead isotope ratios of five bronzes from Sweden compared with the copper ores from Cyprus |
and Bronze Age Cypriot copper based artefacts [Credit: Ling et al. 2014]
The copper trade around the Mediterranean Sea is evident from around 1550 BCE – but going by the bronze finds dating to about that same time in Scandinavia, it apparently began earlier. In any case, Gothenburg University researcher Dr. Johan Ling thinks however that Cypriot copper was not massively and purposefully imported to northern Europe, but trickled along the Bronze Age trade routes.
|'Oxhide' copper ingot from Crete [Credit: WikiCommons]|
“Bronze was as valuable a raw material as oil is today,” says Prof. Kristian Kristiansen of the University of Gothenburg´s archaeological department. It and amber were the twin engines of the Bronze Age economy, to the extent that marriage alliances are believed to have been forged between powerful families in ancient Europe in order to secure the amber trade.
|Mediterranean-style rock art depictions of bulls and ships, dating to 1600-1400 BCE, |
from western Sweden [Credit: SHFA: Gerhard Milstreu]
And now the archaeologists think they have recognized images of the ships that brought the copper north.
|Depiction of a ship and, possibly, an oxhide ingot, found at Norkopping, Sweden, |
dating from 1400 to 1300 BC [Credit: Catarina Bertilsson]
Source: In-Cyprus [May 13, 2016]