Research Project Prehistoric Mining and Metallurgy in Uzbekistan

As part of the project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) at the Curt-Engelhorn-Centre Archaeometry gGmbH copper ores from different deposits in Uzbekistan are analysed with regard to their geochemical and lead isotopic composition. The aim of the project is, based on selective surveys and sampling of the ore deposits, the establishment of a data basis in order to investigate the potential of the Uzbek copper deposits in terms of their prehistoric exploitation.

The earliest metal finds in Central Asia date the beginning of metalworking to the 6th/5th millennium BC. Often the Central Asian copper deposits and in particular those of Uzbekistan are mentioned as raw material sources, but without substantiating this with geochemical data. Also systematic excavations in the mining areas were rarely carried out, and if, then usually at medieval sites that were already known from written sources. Prehistoric mining always played a minor role in the previous (Russian/Soviet) investigations, why only a rough description of the extent of Central Asian copper ore deposits and their significance in prehistoric times can be found in literature. Therefore, only little information about the beginning of the exploitation of copper bearing deposits is known. On the other hand, the traces of prehistoric mining in Uzbekistan are often destroyed or covered by medieval and modern mining activities, for which reason the prehistoric exploitation of deposits can only be proved on basis of the analytical approach.

Another focus of the project is analysis of archaeological objects. Based on the conjunction of the chronological classification of the objects between the Chalcolithic and the Early Iron Age and the detailed geochemical characterization of the ore deposits new knowledge about the prehistoric use of resources and their distribution overtime are expected placing the importance of the copper ore deposits of Uzbekistan as suppliers of raw materials in a wider context.

Participating institutions

  • State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Geology and Mineral Resources, Geological Museum Tashkent (Ahmadzhon Sh. Ahmedshaev, Hamza A. Saipov)
  • Institute of Fine Arts of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan (Shakirdzhan R. Pidaev, Leonid M. Sverchkov)
  • German Archaeological Institut, Eurasia Department (Nikolaus Boroffka)

Dr. Steffen Kraus

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