Social Practice and the Exchange of Metals and Metallurgical Knowledge in 2nd Millennium Central Asia


  • Thomas Stöllner Ruhr-University Bochum, Institute of Archaeological Studies / Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, Research Department – Research Division Mining Archaeology, Am Bergbaumuseum 31, 44791 Bochum
  • Anton Gontscharov Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften, Am Bergbaumuseum 31, D-44791 Bochum



Central Asia, Bronze Age, Andronovo, metals, provenance studies, lead isotope analyses (LIA), trade and exchange


The current article discusses the Bronze Age metal evidence in Central Asia based on a vast study of metals of Kazakh origin in order to better understand what Chernykh once called the West-Asian-Metallurgical Province (WAMP). Based on typological studies it became obvious that typologies do not sufficiently help to understand the distribution patterns of Bronze Age metals in regard to their social  nor their economic background. The authors therefore propose an anthropological and theoretical approach that allows the  exploration of the practice of exchange within steppe communities based on provenance studies of metals using elemental and Pb-isotope data. These data have been analysed within a research project carried out with Kazakhstan partners between 2004 and 2014.  For the first time, a selection of data are presented that support some of the general interpretations of exchange modes between the  Petrovka Early Bronze Age and the Late Bronze Age. Especially during the second millennium, it seems that the exchange pattern of  metals had changed from single high valued items to a larger scale trade, which included metal transport as well. It is suggested that  although the practice of exchange modes between the steppe communities change to larger scale metal exchange during the 2nd half  of the 2nd millennium BC, most of the social background still remained similar in comparison to the earlier periods.