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Isotopic evidence for the use of Caucasian antimony in Late Bronze Age glass making

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

Antimony (Sb) is considered a rare material in the archaeological record, found only in unusual circumstances. Nevertheless, antimony minerals were an important resource for several millennia, used in metallurgy and to opacify or decolour glass and glazes. In this way, Sb spread throughout the known world from the Chalcolithic onward. In glassmaking, stibnite was the only available resource that could provide in any measure the very pure Sb evident from trace element analyses of the earliest glass. Sb isotopic analysis has allowed Late Bronze Age Egyptian and Mesopotamian glass vessels and Caucasian Sb metallic beads to be compared to the possible ancient ore sources. The only known matches for the isotopic composition of the glass are stibnite ores from the Racha-Lechkumi district in the Caucasus (present-day Georgia), near the Zopkhito Au-Sb deposits, mined from the 17th century BCE. Conversely, the Sb metal beads represent several isotopic and trace element compositional groups, only one of which matches the Racha-Lechkumi stibnite. Sb extraction for glassmaking was likely unrelated to copper metallurgy, and may have been associated with the mining of precious metals.
ISSN: 1095-9238
Volume: 120