Lead Isotopic Characteristics and Metal Sources for the Jewelry in the Medieval Rural Settlements from the Suzdal Region (Kievan Rus’)


  • Andrey V. Chugaev Institute of Geology of Ore Deposits, Petrography, Mineralogy and Geochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, Laboratory of isotope geochemistry and geochronology, Staromonetny Lane 35, 119017 Moscow, Russian Federation
  • Stephen W. Merkel Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, Leibniz Research Institute for Geo-Resources, Research Department, Herner Straße 45, 44787 Bochum
  • Irina E. Zaytseva Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Dmitry Ulyanov Str. 19, 117292 Moscow, Russian Federation




Middle Ages, Kievan Rus, metal sources, Pb-isotope analyses, white bronze, silver, lead-tin alloy, long-distance trade


The article considers the results of the study of lead isotope composition of 38 non-ferrous artifacts discovered at medieval rural sites of the Suzdal Region (Kievan Rus’). The copper-alloy, silver and pewter artifacts were compared with reference data from geographically and temporally diverse medieval artifacts and ore deposits and revealed differing source regions and supply networks within and between metal types. The identification in some cases was difficult due to the conformity of the lead isotopic composition of deposits of some regions. The copper-alloys, represented mostly by crosses made of high-tin bronze, show close isotopic parallels to contemporary copper alloys from Southern Scandinavia, Westphalia and Lower Saxony. Since the copper alloys contain significant quantities of lead, this lead may have entered the metal by alloying with lead-tin alloys, by smelting mixed copper-lead ore, or through haphazard alloying with lead. The lead isotope ratios for nearly all copper alloys are consistent with deposits in Cornwall and Devon and remobilized ore from the Rhenish Massif. For silver and lead-tin alloy objects, lead isotope analyses point to wide ranging sources. Most silver objects are consistent with mid-to-late 10th century silver stocks circulating in the Baltic area and 10th century Volga-Bulgar silver dirham imitations probably representing mixtures of 9th-10th century Islamic silver. The silver shows a heavy reliance on 10th century mixed stocks and there are little indications of Central and Western European silver, which was common in the 11th century Baltic region. The pewter and lead, however, indicate other sources. Lead isotope ratios are consistent with sources connected to Mediterranean and Baltic networks, some being consistent with sources in England, but it is possible that the lead found in some pewter objects could come from the Olkusz lead district in southern Poland.