Chalcolithic copper production and use in the western end of the Iberian Peninsula: The testimony of Castro de Chibanes (Portugal)

Pedro Valério, Joaquina Soares, Luís C. Alves, Rui J. C. Silva, Maria Fátima Araújo, Carlos Tavares da Silva

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Recent archaeological excavations identified a prehistoric occupation at Castro de Chibanes (Setúbal Peninsula, Portugal) displaying ceramic crucibles and metal artefacts in stratigraphic levels assigned to 2500–1900 cal BC. Apart from basic tools such as flat axes and awls, the collection includes ceramic crucibles, with emphasis to an uncommon example with a pouring lip and four feet. The studied set was completed with metal prills and artefacts from neighbouring Chalcolithic settlements of Rotura and Pedrão. The studied collection was characterised by chemical and microstructural techniques (p-EDXRF, micro-PIXE, optical microscopy and SEM-EDS). Overall, the results point to a local production of copper with variable arsenic contents, agreeing with the composition of artefacts (Cu with 0.14 to 4.4 wt% As), whose post-casting manufacture included hammering and annealing (recrystallized grains and annealing twins), although with incipient conditions that prevented a full compositional homogenisation. These results were compared with the Chalcolithic metallurgy of southwestern Iberian Peninsula, allowing to integrate the Setúbal Peninsula region into a wider context of metal production and use during the 3rd millennium BC. Finally, a supposed Bell Beaker “tanged dagger” was found to be composed by a leaded bronze alloy with a worked microstructure exhibiting Cu-Fe sulphides with high Se contents. The contradiction between analytical features and ancient chronology led to a revision of the typology and chronology of this bronze, showing the importance of the integration of analytical and archaeological research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103868
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Arsenical copper
  • Bronze
  • Chalcolithic
  • Copper
  • Crucible
  • Iberian Peninsula


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