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Document Details :
Title: The Rise of Arsenical Copper in Southeastern Iran
Author(s): THORNTON, Christopher P.
Journal: Iranica Antiqua
Volume: 45 Date: 2010
The transition from the use of native copper to smelted copper-base alloys in Southwest Asia is not well studied, yet is critical to our understanding of the development of metallurgy in this region and its relationship to the rise of complex societies. In this paper, recent analytical research on one of the earliest examples of smelted arsenical copper in the world — the Period VIA awl from Tepe Yahya in Southeastern Iran (ca. 4300 BCE) — is presented and compared to metal artifacts from earlier and later periods at the site. It is argued that this single awl represents the initial importation of metal to Yahya, even as local native copper continues to be exploited for the next few centuries (if not longer). In addition, this awl was probably worked locally, suggesting a new style of economic production emphasizing the import of raw materials followed by the consumption (or export) of locally-crafted goods. Finally, analysis has revealed that this Chalcolithic awl was probably used for the carving of steatite, which could have large implications for the rise of Yahya as a specialized soft-stone workshop by the Early Bronze Age.