SAS Bulletin

Volume 20   Number 1/2   January /June 1997

Arsenic, Nickel et Antimoine. Une approche de la métallurgie du Bronze moyen et final en Suisse par líanalyse spectrométrique,Tomes 1-2.

Valentin Rychner & Niklaus Kläntschi. Cahiers díArchéologie Romande 63-64, Lausanne, 1995. 112 & 224 pp., 122 tables, figures, & plates. 80 S.Fr. (cloth).

Reviewed by Ervan G. Garrison, Geology and Anthropology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 USA

    This two volume work provides important new insights into the metallurgy of the Middle to Late Bronze Age of TransAlpine Switzerland. The work is written in French and German depending on the co-authors, Rycliner (French) and Kläntschi (German). The bulk of the text is in French. This reflects Rychnerís role as the originator of the project and the conceptual organizer of work.
    This is not to diminish Kläntschiís role which entailed over three years of chemical analyses of this impressive set (941) of bronze artifacts.
    The work is well organized into Volume 1, which contains the eight chapters of text and bibliography and Volume 2 which contains an index of sites, catalog of artifacts, appendices, tables, figures, maps and plates. Of particular importance to international readers are excellent four page summaries in German, English, and Italian at the end of Volume 1. Such summaries have become a standard part of almost every Swiss archeological publication and should be applauded. They provide an in-depth summary of the work that no simple abstract can accomplish.
    The principal author, Valentin Rychner, is a faculty member of the Seminar of Prehistory at the University of Neuchâtel as well as a curator at the Museum of Archaeology of Neuchâtel. Many of the artifacts analyzed in this study were excavated by teams lead by Rychner at Auvernier in the 1970ís. These excavations, at Auvernier, formed the basis of Rychnerís dissertation, Rychner, 1979. Rychnerís interest in the chemical study of bronze metallurgy began in the late 70ís and early 80ís as demonstrated by his publications on copper and its alloys of the Late Bronze Age in western Switzerland (Rychner 1981; 1983).
    Kläntschi (1980; 1987; 1990; 1993), along with other European researchers such as Trampuz-Orel (1991; 1993), Pernicka (1984; 1995), Bourhis (1975; 1979; 1984), and Junghans et al. (1960; 1968; 1974) have demonstrated the efficacy of instrumental analysis of prehistoric metals. Kläntschi has developed this interest using the multiple-element spectrographic techniques of inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy (ICP).
    Combining the sample population of nearly 1000 well-provenanced artifacts with a powerful instrumental technique placed this study on the firmest of methodological grounds. The studyís stated objectives are: the compositional classification of bronzes used in Switzerland during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages from Bronze B to Hallstatt B-2. The study attempts to isolate time-dependent (diachronic) changes in the composition of the principal metal-copper-and correlate these changes with the chronological evolution of (the) object topology. The study was carried out from 1984 to 1987 at Kläntschiís laboratory in Dübendorf, Germany.
    The bulk of the artifacts examined (774 out of 941/83%) were mostly axes (546/58%), knives (146/15%) and sickles (82/9%). From these specimens, small (30 mg) samples were drilled. ICP analysis lends itself to small samples and thus reduces the requisite damage to an artefact to a minimum.
    The analysis centers on the characterization the bronzes using a compositional topology of three principal impurities - arsenic, nickel, and antimony - hence the title of the work.
    Beginning with Chapter 2 the study starts by dividing the objects into five chronological groups based on typology. These are: Middle Bronze Age (Bronze moyen); Bronze D - Hallstatt A 1 (BzD-HaA1); Hallstatt A 2 (HaA2); Hallstatt B 1 (HaB1); and Hallstatt B2 (HaB2). Chapter 3 divides the sample on areal considerations - East, Central, and West Switzerland. The authors point out the bulk of the sample comes from the central area or Swiss Plateau that reaches from Zürich to Geneva. This distribution clearly reflects the historical preponderance of archaeological research in this region since the 19th Century.
    Chapters 4 and 5 involve the statistical parsing of the chemical analytical data. The first step is the use of simple histograms which show changes in chemical composition do occur with time. The authors derived seven compositional types (1-7) based on elemental characteristics. These were further sub-divided on the basis of absolute concentration of the elements, e.g. ìlowî, ìnormalî, and ìhighî. This sorting into 20 composition groups immediately demonstrated the correlation of composition to chronology - 84% of the ìlowî group belonged to the Middle and Early-Late Bronze Age and 83% of the ìhighî group belonged to the Late Bronze Age phase, HaB1. Chapter 5 details the hierarchial classification of the sample using average link cluster analysis resulting in dendrogram plots. These dendrograms, along with the data sets on which they are based, are given in Volume 2.
    Chapter 6 begins the synthesis and discussion of the study results. From the standpoint of the studyís objectives, this is the most important discussion. Chapters 7 and 8 continue the discussion of the results but focus on issues ancillary to the principal objectives. Chapter 7 attempts to determine the extent to which copper used in Switzerland circulated in neighboring regions. While pointing out the paucity of comparative work, the authors do propose two conclusions.: (1) The copper of the Middle Bronze Age is probably of Austrian origin and (2) the Late Bronze Age copper originates in the Alps. Chapter 8 discusses the problems in determining sources of copper for the European Bronze Age. Returning to Chapter 6, the efficacy of the authorís classificatory scheme is clearly demonstrated. The methodology works best for the Middle Bronze Age bronzes, less-well for the Bronze D-Hallstatt A1 and, again, proves robust in characterizing the Late Bronze Age types of HaA2. Indeed, in this later period, the authors see a dramatic break in compositional patterns. The bronzes of this late period became ìstandardizedî across the Swiss Plateau with nickel compositionally dominant. Some heterogenity occurs in the Hallstatt B1 phase but the homogeneity returns in the last Bronze Age phase, Hallstatt B2 (ca. 900BC). One final point, in Chapter 8, involves the question of re-smelting of ìoldî bronze. In general, the data supports the conclusion that Swiss workshops produced bronze using new copper rather than recycling old metal.
    From the standpoint of production and editing, it is difficult to find fault. The volumes are attractive and printed on high quality paper. Few, if any, errors in production noticeable. The photographic plates (Volume 2) are exemplary being the results of efforts of Rychner and Yves Andre of the Museum of Archeology of Neuchâtel. Two minor distractions from the overall high quality of the work involve: (1) the decision to allow each author to write in their native language. While the bulk of the text is French, it seems a small thing to have translated Kläntschiís contributions in French and, (2) the Swiss predilection to publish maps without geographic references or scale. The maps are attractive but to the international reader they present problems in interpretation if one does not have a familiarity with Swiss geography.
    These volumes are important contributions to the study of the Bronze Age of Western Europe. The authors have established a benchmark of quality for future studies. Methodologically, the work speaks to metallurgical studies beyond Switzerland. The straightforward analytical approach and its conceptual clarity, from hypothesis to synthesis, is to be applauded.

    Bourhis, J. 1984. Analyses des cuivres et bronzes de Picardie et du Nord-Ouest de la France. In: Paléométallurgie de la France atlantique 1: 23-43.
    Bourhis, J.R., Biot, P.R., & Briard, J. 1975. Analyses spectrographiques díobjets préhistoriques et antiques. Troisème série. Travaux du Laboratoire Anthropologie:Préhistoire-Protohistoire-Quaternaire armoricains, Université de Rennes.
    Bourhis, J.R. & Briard, J. 1979. Analyses spectrographiques díobjets préhistoriques et antiques. Quartrème série. Travaux du Laboratoire Anthropologie-Préhistoire-Protohistoire-Quarternaire armoricains, Université de Rennes, Rennes.
    Junghans, S., Sangmeister, E. & SchrÇeder, M. 1960. Metallanalysen kupferzeitlicher und frühbronze-zeitlicher     Bondenfunde aus Europa. Studien zu den Anfängen der Metallurgie 1. Mann, Berlin.
    Junghans, S., Sangmeister, E. & SchrÇeder, M. 1968. Kupfer und Bronze in der frühen Metallzeit Europas. Die Materialgruppen beim Stand von 12000 Analysen. Studien zu den Anfängen der Metallurgie 2/1-3. Mann, Berlin.
    Junghans, S., Sangmeister, E. & SchrÇeder, M. 1974. Kupfer und Bronze in der frühen Metallzeit Europas. Katalog der Analysen Nr. 10041-22000 (mit Nachuntersuchungen der Analysen Nr. 1010040). Studien zu den Anfängen der Metallurgie 2/4. Mann, Berlin.
    Kläntschi, N. 1980. Optische Emissionsspektralanalyse mit induktiv gekoppeltem Plasma (ICP). Material un Technik 8: 14.
    Kläntschi, N. 1990. Analysis of Fe- and Cu-base metals by ICP-atomic emission spectrometry. In Euroanalysis VII. European Conference on analytical chemistry A4.2. L-4.
    Kläntschi, N. 1993. Instrumentelle Methoden der anorganischen Elementanalytik. Chimia 46: 186-199.
    Kläntschi, N., Esenwein, A. & Müller, Th. 1987. Simultanbestimmung von Si, Mn, P, Cu, Al, Ni, Cr, Mo, V, Ti, Co und As in Stählen mit ICP-AES. Fresenius Zeitschrift für analytische Chemie 328: 657-661.
    Rychner, V. 1979. Líâge du Bronze final à Auvernier (lac de Neuchâtel, Suisse): typologie et chronologie des anciennes collections conservées en Suisse. Cahiers díArchéologie Romande 15-16, Auvernier 1. Bibliothèque historique vaudoise, Lausanne.
    Rychner, V. 1981. Le cuivre et les alliages du Bronze final en Suisse occidentale: premières analyses spectrographiques à Auvernier/Nord et à Neuchâtel/Le Crêt. Musée neuchâtelois 18: 97-124.
    Rychner, V. 1983. Le cuivre et les alliages du Bronze final en Suisse occidentale. II: Corcelettes VD. Annuaire de la Société suisse de préhistorie et díarchéologie 66: 73-85.
    Pernicka, E. 1984. Instrumentelle Multi-Elementanalyse archäologischer Kupfer- und Bronzeartefakte: ein Methodenvergleich. Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 31: 517-531.
    Pernicka, E. 1995. Gewinnung und Verbreitung der Metalle in prähistorischer Zeit. Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 37(1990): 21-129.
    Trampuz-Orel, N., Klemenc, S. & Hudnik, V. 1993. Spectrometric research of the late bronze age hoard finds from Pusenci, Ceroven and Judinja. In Ptujski arheoloski zbornik ob 100-letnici muzeja in muzejskega drustva, 159-170. Ptuj.

To the SAS Bulletin Contents
To the Society for Archaeological Sciences