4300 year old copper ingots

It was during a routine excavation at ancient human settlements in Oman. The find is by German archaeologists. They discovered 4,300-year-old copper ingots.

Researchers from Goethe University Frankfurt conducted field research for six weeks. Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in the North Sharqiyah Governorate supervised. Near the town of Ibra they dug test pits in the ground. Their aim was to date the settlements from the coals found there. That’s when something green turned up: a piece of copper, corroded on the outside. It consists of three individual ingots in the shape of a round cone.

These are the 4300-year-old copper ingots.
These are the 4300-year-old copper ingots.

Cast on clay

“A find like this is extremely rare,” says in a statement Professor Stephanie Döpper. It weighs 1.7 kilograms. It may have been left by mistake when they left the settlement.

The settlement dates to the Early Bronze Age (around 2600-2000 BC). During this period, the territory of present-day Oman was one of the most important producers of copper. Smelted into ingots, copper was a coveted commodity. This is documented especially in Mesopotamian cuneiform texts. Copper ingots were generally processed further to make tools and other objects. They were rarely unearthed in archaeological excavations. It is therefore surprising to find copper ingots 4300 years old.

Copper ingots have a plano-convex shape typical of the time. It was formed by pouring molten copper into small clay crucibles. This provides insight into metal processing technologies already known at the time.

Excavations took place in Oman.
Excavations took place in Oman.

Trade exchange

Smelting copper required a large amount of combustible material. It was probably a great challenge in a region as arid and sparsely vegetated as Oman. Many pottery shards of ‘black slipped jars’ were found at the site. These are large storage vessels from the Indus culture. The newly discovered village was in close exchange and contact with the Indian subcontinent.

It was a small and rather rural settlement in central Oman. But still, it was part of a system of interregional trade and exchange of goods. And bronze was one of them.

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