Eneolithic.

I was just reading a book by Vladimir Tendryakov when I was taken aback by the word энеолит [eneolit]. My first thought was that it might be a typo for неолит ‘Neolithic,’ but the book is well copyedited and proofread (the Soviets knew how to do these things, comrade), so that seemed unlikely. I looked it up and discovered in English it’s Eneolithic or Aeneolithic (from Latin aeneus ‘of copper’), and it’s a synonym of Chalcolithic. Is anyone familiar with this term? Who uses it?

Comments

  1. jack morava says

    One way into this might be through the amazing Sintasha culture, which is not as well-known as it should be. From Wikipedia:

    Sintashta (Russian: Синташта́) is an archaeological site in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia. It is the remains of a fortified settlement dating to the Bronze Age, c. 2800–1600 BC, and is the type site of the Sintashta culture. The site has been characterised “fortified metallurgical industrial center”…

    It was a major industrial center at the beginning of the Bronze age, and opinions about it run high. It and related sites are involved in a controversy about relations between Slavs and Indo-Aryans…

  2. The first few citations in the OED (updated December 2011) involve Italy:

    1886 Amer. Jrnl. Archaeol. 2 89 Towards the N. were found a group of Gallic tombs: towards the W. another group of 17 tombs of the eneo-lithic period.
    1901 G. Sergi Mediterranean Race xii. 240 In Italy this period is termed æneolithic, that is to say, the period of copper and polished stone together.
    1911 J. L. Myres Dawn of Hist. x. 224 The result was a long chalcolithic (or as the Italians say, eneolithic) phase, in which good cheap stone and bad expensive bronze were in use concurrently.

    Here’s the full passage the first cite is from:

  3. Trond Engen says

    Completely unfamiliar.

    I’ve obviously picked it up somewhere in my reading of archaeological and archaeo-genetical papers. I also use Chalcolithic, and I probably mix them indiscriminately.

  4. I have a feeling that I saw it recently in a paper (Middle Eastern or North African archaeology discussed here) in English, and that I thought with surprise: “why do I see it so rarely? I think I know this word…”.

    “Chalcolitic” also surprises me, because I only became familiar with it in the third millenium AD, after the advent of Wikipedia ( and when I began reading mostly in English!).

  5. Completely unfamiliar.

    In that first comment, you referred to “the Eneolithic and Bronze Age.” Were you providing alternate designations?

  6. A quick search in my pile of .pdfs yields 14 papers / books using “Eneolithic”, 20 using “Chalcolithic” and 15 using both. Some seven or eight of the “Eneolithic” usages turn out to be David W. Anthony specifically, and four or five are citations of Rassamakin (1999), “The Eneolithic of the Black Sea Steppe”; other recurring culprits include J. P. Mallory and Johanna Nichols. By usage-based analysis it pretty much would seem to be the case that the Eneolithic happened in the Eurasian steppes vs. the Chalcolithic in the Near East and Mediterranean.

  7. Interesting, thanks! (I wonder how an Italy-based term migrated so far east?)

  8. Widely used in Europe. Recent publications with extensive discussion of the Eneolithic:

    W. Schier and F. Drasovean (eds.), The Neolithic and Eneolithic in Southeast Europe. New Approaches to Dating and Cultural Dynamics in the 6th to 4th Millennium BC. PRÄHISTORISCHE ARCHÄOLOGIE IN SÜDOSTEUROPA 28 (Rahden/Westfalen: Verlag Marie Leidorf 2014)

    Milisauskas, Sarunas (Ed.), European Prehistory: A Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology. 2011 Springer-Verlag New York

    Levine M., Rassamakin Yu., Kislenko A. and Tatarintseva N. (with an introduction by C.Renfrew), 1999. Late Prehistoric Exploitation of the Eurasian Steppe. McDonald Institute Monographs, University of Cambridge

    Douglass W. Bailey & Ivan Panayatov (ed.). Prehistoric Bulgaria. (Monographs in World Archaeology 22.) 1995. Madison (WI); Prehistory Press

  9. Trond Engen says

    Hat: Were you providing alternate designations?

    No. The Copper Age preceded the Bronze Age, and I aimed for lumping while keeping distinct.

  10. Trond Engen says

    I really thought it was from a Greek ήνεος or something like that. Not only is it a barbarous Latin-Greek hybrid, but my Latin dictionary tells that it’s aēneus, from oider ahēneus, so the monophtongization is JUST WRONG.

  11. I’ve also seen it before, but I consider it doubly (or probably triply) ill formed.

  12. OK, now I hate it. Chalcolithic it is!

  13. David Eddyshaw says

    from oider ahēneus

    Wiktionary says a(h)eneus is from aes, which would make the h a hypercorrection, like in humerus. However, Michiel de Vaan thinks the spelling might have been borrowed from Umbrian, though still with h as a hiatus marker, rather than a consonant symbol. Nevertheless, aes was indeed disyllabic (somewhat mysteriously.) The long ē in ahēneus is because it’s from *a(h)esne-.

    Shakespeare calls Cn Domitius Ahenobarbus “Enobarbus”, so the monophthongisation is Absolutely Fine.

  14. “In Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Stone Age – Bronze Age transition is classified as the ‘Eneolithic’, equivalent to the Chalcolithic period elsewhere in West Asia.”
    (https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/x321638)

    Can’t it be just preference of local scientists? Then, in an English text people may simply retain local term rather than translate aeneo- to chalco-.

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    It should be called the Enosax Period.

  16. There are also
    epipalaeo- and meso- (for between palaeo- and neo-)

  17. What’s strange to me, whether chalco- or eneo-, is considering the era the ‘copper stone age.’ Do archaeologists mean to emphasize that many tools were still made of stone even as copper came to be used, or is lithic just carried over from paleo- and neo- somewhat mindlessly?

  18. My layman’s understanding is that this was a major period of cultural transition in Central Asia that has lately begun to come into archeological focus, involving not just copper and arsenic bronze but innovations in wagons and chariots and other war technology. Draft animals had (supposedly) recently become available on the steppe, and a real military-industrial complex formed, which led to the expansions of the Bronze age proper.

    Others on this blog will know much more about this than I do; perhaps I’ve been reading too many scifi stories. My impression is that this chalcolithic period in the West (Europe) is thought to have been kind of quiet and dull, whereas the developments in the East were revolutionary and may have come to be called `eneolithic’ as a perhaps unconscious way of marking the difference.

    amirite? I think we should be told!

  19. My first history teacher, who also happened to be my school’s director, started out our first class with explaining terms “paleolit[hic]”, “neolit[hic]”, and “eneolit[hic]” something like “old stone age”, “middle stone age”, and “new stone age” (either he made a mistake or I am misremembering) and then for some time marched up and down the room pointing a finger at a random student and exclaiming one of the 6 expression to which a pointed at student had to reply with the synonym.

    He was a heavy drinker.

  20. I’m reasonably familiar with the term chalcolithic from studying the Ancient Near East and have also encountered the term eneolithic, from David W. Anthony and possibly elsewhere. But I don’t think I ever made the connection that the two were synonymous. Chalcolithic is a much more transparent formation for me, while aeneus doesn’t ring any bells.

    Apparently, a recent XRF analysis of bronze artifacts at the Cheongju National Museum in Korea confirmed that some of the early ones including an arrowhead from Chuncheon dated between the 13th and 10th centuries BC were in fact pure copper. I wonder if we’ll end up speaking of a Copper Age in Korea, and which term in English would prevail in that case. I suspect chalcolithic.

  21. What’s strange to me, whether chalco- or eneo-, is considering the era the ‘copper stone age.’ Do archaeologists mean to emphasize that many tools were still made of stone even as copper came to be used, or is lithic just carried over from paleo- and neo- somewhat mindlessly?
    The former. I remember reading books on ancient history that stated specifically that the chalcolithic saw the first use of metal, but that the vast majority of tools was still made of stone and other non-metallic materials.
    AFAIK that is still true for the Bronze age, as bronze was expensive. Only with the use of iron metal became cheap enough to be widely used in everyday tools. But bronze seems to have at least become prevalent in weaponry and armour, which is of course all that counts for naming periods 😉

  22. Eneo- and chalco- both mean bronze, don’t they?

  23. WP: “In 1884, Gaetano Chierici, perhaps following the lead of Evans, renamed it in Italian as the eneo-litica, or “bronze–stone” transition.

    eneo- is an Italian word then.

  24. Eneo- and chalco- both mean bronze, don’t they?
    The main meaning of chalkos is “copper”, but it means “bronze” in Homer and frequently in later writers.
    aēnĕus can mean both “(made) of copper” and “of bronze”.

  25. David Marjanović says

    I’ve seen it pretty often, as described above. I always took for granted it was derived from Neolithic somehow, and wondered what the e- could be…

    I wonder how an Italy-based term migrated so far east?

    I suppose one Italian textbook happened to make it into the Soviet Union. Such things happened elsewhere – in my field you can still see Russians classifying animals in a way that comes straight from one particular American textbook from 1950, because the paper where the same author demolished that classification in 1956 just never made it across the Iron Curtain and because the innovation that turned phylogenetics into a science was introduced to the field in the late 90s, when Russian science basically had no money at all.

    AFAIK that is still true for the Bronze age, as bronze was expensive.

    Half of the arrowheads on the battlefield of Tollense are made of stone.

    In the Chalcolithic (Kupferzeit, Kupfersteinzeit), copper seems to have been limited to prestige objects. Ötzi’s ax was made of copper, but his knife of stone.

  26. David Marjanović says

    aes was indeed disyllabic (somewhat mysteriously.)

    Perhaps because of the lost *j in between. That didn’t stop trēs from becoming a monosyllable, but hiatus should be harder to maintain between identical vowels than between different ones…

  27. jack morava says

    Bronze requires tin, which is hard to come by, cf Wiki. The development of tin trading networks in the Bronze Age is much studied by archaeologists.

  28. From this: W. Schier and F. Drasovean (eds.), The Neolithic and Eneolithic in Southeast Europe. New Approaches to Dating and Cultural Dynamics in the 6th to 4th Millennium BC. PRÄHISTORISCHE ARCHÄOLOGIE IN SÜDOSTEUROPA 28 (Rahden/Westfalen: Verlag Marie Leidorf 2014):

    “Looking back more than two decades, the concept of the Copper Age as a historical epoch appears far less convincing than it was perceived around 1990 … there is more temporal dynamic and regional variability and less uniformity in the cultural, social and economic processes concerned … We suggest, therefore, that the notion of Copper Age as a historical epoch be abandoned and the terms Eneolithic/Chalcolithic be used just as terminological conventions without culture-historical or even holistic implications.”

    I am not an archaeologist, but my amateur understanding is that at one time, many archaeologists considered there to be a fairly clear stage of technological development in many Eurasian cultures — occurring at different times in different regions — for which the use of copper was a particularly useful marker. As their knowledge base has improved, though, they have increasingly concluded that there is no such clear stage, but rather that increasing use of copper is one of a number of markers that appear in different cultures in different stages, and that “Eneolithic” or “Chalcolithic” can be a useful term for such stages. I also have the sense that “Eneolithic” is a more recent term generally preferred over “Chalcolithic”, largely because it emphasizes the “late stone age” aspect over the “copper” aspect, and so de-emphasizes copper as a very important marker. But as I say, I am not an archaeologist.

  29. … there is more temporal dynamic and regional variability and less uniformity in the cultural, social and economic processes concerned…

    Exactly, cf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium

    That’s why it’s fascinating. In Central Asia it marked a major transition between cultural regimes.

  30. From one of many articles about terminology, The ‘Copper Age’—A History of the Concept (link):

    “in the Balkans, where ‘the period designations … vary from country to country, with much of the Late Neolithic of the Vinča culture of Yugoslavia … being synchronous with the Eneolithic of Bulgaria and the Chalcolithic or Copper Age of Hungary’, while ‘the Eneolithic (Baden-Kostolac-Vučedol) cultures of Yugoslavia are often called Early Bronze Age in neighboring countries’. Chalcolithic, Eneolithic and Copper Age are, of course, synonymous, but this does not solve the lack of correlation between regional and national traditions of scholarship.”

    Another scary quote:

    Renfrew eschewed the Copper Age as a chronological period in his monograph, and as we have seen, preferred instead to insert a Final Neolithic between the Late Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age of the traditional Aegean chronology (Renfrew 1972, pp. 64, 76, tab. 5.1; cf. Weinberg 1947), but he refers to the concept, for example, ‘the final Neolithic of east Macedonia thus covers the transition from a typically “chalcolithic” culture … to … the early bronze age’, using the label as a description of a phase in cultural development rather than to denote a chronological period, a distinction to which we will return.

    And this is interesting:

    For example, in Copper Age Liguria (northwest Italy), the upland pastures begin to be exploited for short-range, summer transhumance, and this new pastoral economy correlates with (and may be argued to be the cause of) the discovery and exploitation of other mountain resources: chert (radiolarite) for arrowheads, and copper ore (Maggi and Pearce 2010). It is worth noting that this link between pastoralism and metallurgy had been adduced by Childe (1958, p. 144).

  31. Brett, zinc sublimates and they could not simply vandalize a battery (as I would do in childhood). see here


    (Vandalizing before the Vandals would be anachronistic)

  32. jack morava says

    @drasvi, thanks for a very interesting link: but it’s mostly about things south of the Caspian.

    The Sintasha culture seems mind-boggling to me, a prehistoric do-it-yourself community

    `… The unprecedented number of copper objects in burials and evidence of metal processing in every house in the settlement reveals the development of metallurgy and metal processing. Several types of hearths were used for smelting ore: a grooved hearth, paved with stone; a two-chambered hearth and domed oven with flue connected with a pit for the disposal of ash. These constructions reveal an important advance in metallurgical development in comparison with the earlier Pit-grave period, because they raised the thermal potential of society. L. White regarded the development of thermal potential as a decisive factor in cultural history…

    of artisans driven mad from whiffing arsenic-bronze fumes? Something out of Conan the Barbarian or Jack Vance…

  33. January First-of-May says

    something like “old stone age”, “middle stone age”, and “new stone age”

    That matches paleo/meso/neo, not paleo/neo/(a)eneo.

    I’m vaguely familiar with энеолит but wasn’t very sure what it means. AFAICT I’ve never heard of *халколит, though the English word “Chalcolithic” is far less unfamiliar. To the best of my recollection неолит is supposed to be followed by бронзовый век, without a fancy term for the latter.

    One inconvenience about the name “Copper Age” is that it sounds like it would be preceded by gold and silver rather than any variants of stone. To a lesser extent the same is true of “Bronze Age” (the fact that it’s followed by “Iron Age” doesn’t help).
    I wonder if Hesiod (ca. 8th century BC?) would have known of the historical Bronze Age… how long would it have been since it ended at the time?

  34. One inconvenience about the name “Copper Age” is that it sounds like it would be preceded by gold and silver rather than any variants of stone. To a lesser extent the same is true of “Bronze Age” (the fact that it’s followed by “Iron Age” doesn’t help).

    January First-of-May, does it mean that your Russian source from where you learned Hesiod’s story has ‘медный’ rather than ‘бронзовый’?

    Homer’s is famous for the precision of his description of Bronze Age technology despite all the centuries between him and the Bronze Age. Compare: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boar%27s_tusk_helmet

    Hesiod: “But when earth had covered this generation also—they are called blessed spirits of the underworld by men, and, though they are of second order, yet honor attends them also—Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees1 ; and it was in no way equal to the silver age, [145] but was terrible and strong. They loved the lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence; they ate no bread, but were hard of heart like adamant, fearful men. Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. [150] Their armor was of bronze, and their houses of bronze, and of bronze were their implements: there was no black iron.”

  35. Hans, does “main” mean that classical writers: (1) usually called copper “chalkos” without extra attributes
    (2) usually called bronze with some different word (which one?)

    If not, I think the Greek notion can’t be translated (apart of what Russian kids once called медная железяка) and figuring out what is the “main” meaning requires studying contexts. Quotations look suspicious:

    ‘ “χαλκός ἐρυθρὸς καὶ λευκός” Thphr.Od.71; ‘
    ‘ “χαλκός Κύπριος” Posidon.52J., Dsc.1.102, cf. Polyaen.3.10.14;’

    It looks like he is using “copper” the same way as the translators of King James Bible used brass/brazen for nekosheth, except that fo those it could be their native usage….

    ‘of copper as the first metal that men learnt to smelt and work, “τῶν δ᾽ ἦν χάλκεα μὲν τεύχεα, χάλκεοι δέ τε οἶκοι, χαλκῷ δ᾽ εἰργάζοντο, μέλας δ᾽ οὐκ ἔσκε σίδηρος” Hes.Op.151;’

    It is about Hesiod’s famous description of “Bronze Age”! I wanted to quote it, but then January First-of-May wrote his comment and I moved it:)

  36. Some do believe the Copper Age was preceded by the Golden Age.

  37. We live in the Stone Age, consider all those flint silicon chips in our computers.

  38. @drasvi: I read the dictionary entry that way that chalkos was the usual word for “copper”, but that more ancient authors like Homer used it for “bronze”, and some later imitators did as well.

  39. jack morava says

    It appears that no myths/stories/literature made it through from the Chalcolithic:

    Climb Uruk’s wall and walk back and forth!
    Survey its foundations, examine the brickwork!
    Were its bricks not fired in an oven?
    Did the Seven Sages not lay its foundation?

    [A square mile is] city, [a square mile [date-grove, a square mile is
    clay-pit, half a quarter mile the temple of Ishtar:
    [three square miles] and a half is Uruk’s expanse.

    [See] the tablet-box of cedar,
    [release] its clasp of bronze!
    [Lift] the lid of its secret,
    [pick] up the tablet of lapis lazuli and read out
    the travels of Gilgamesh, all that he went through…

    Possibly there are traces in astronomical lore, kinship conventions, linguistics, genomics…

  40. Hans, I do not read in Greek, if we do not count reading a couple of lines (and usually with a dictionary) once in a while, so I am not sure. I know there are people here who do, perhaps you are one of them. I hope they will correct me. But my impression is that Greek word for “bronze” was also χαλκός (including later writers) and χαλκός on its own was not understood as “pure copper as opposed to alloys”.

    If this is the case, translating it as “copper” is arbitrary, and tells more about the mindset of the translator. His example where he translates it as “copper” in the description of the age that followed the Silver and Golden ages is certainly arbitrary.

    Thus, we use “liquor” to refer to mixed drinks, “spirit” for a pure component of those and I also can use “alcohol” (in Russian) to refer to drinks while conceptualizing C2H5OH as the “primary” (but uncommon) meaning. “Booze” and “alcohol” have the same referent but are understood differently.

    My impression is that they used χαλκός to refer to all alloys (the same way as liquor/alcohol cover all drinks) and how they conceptualized it is an interesting question.

    P.S. It has been a while since I drank κυπριακό λευκό και ερυθρό..

  41. I do not know what is ‘ “χαλκός …. λευκός”, but it does not sound like “copper”.

    “χαλκός Κύπριος” and “ἐρυθρὸς ” look like references to a purer variety of χαλκός. At least it would be logical if Cyprian chalkos was purer given Cyprian > copper.

  42. David Marjanović says

    Wiktionary says a(h)eneus is from aes, which would make the h a hypercorrection, like in humerus. However, Michiel de Vaan thinks the spelling might have been borrowed from Umbrian, though still with h as a hiatus marker, rather than a consonant symbol. Nevertheless, aes was indeed disyllabic (somewhat mysteriously.) The long ē in ahēneus is because it’s from *a(h)esne-.

    …and poetic German retains the exact cognate, ehern “brazen in the KJV sense”, with h as a pure hiatus marker! The first e comes from the OHG *(-)air(-) > [ɛːr] shift, and the r from Verner’s law. ^_^

    The noun used in this register to go with ehern is Erz, which otherwise means “ore”.

    OHG Isidor 157:
    Erino portun ih firchnussu, iisnine grindila firbrihhu endi dhiu chiborgonun hort dhir ghibu.
    KJV Isaiah 2b–3a:
    I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places

  43. Hans, I do not read in Greek, if we do not count reading a couple of lines (and usually with a dictionary) once in a while, so I am not sure. I know there are people here who do, perhaps you are one of them. I hope they will correct me.
    Unfortunately, I’m not a specialist on Greek either, and what I’ve read in Ancient Greek is mostly biblical koine and later authors like Xenophon. I have to rely on dictionaries and can’t offer you deeper insights.

    But my impression is that Greek word for “bronze” was also χαλκός (including later writers) and χαλκός on its own was not understood as “pure copper as opposed to alloys”.

    If this is the case, translating it as “copper” is arbitrary, and tells more about the mindset of the translator. His example where he translates it as “copper” in the description of the age that followed the Silver and Golden ages is certainly arbitrary.

    I simply don’t know whether what we have here is a mixed concept “bronze + copper” or a development from the word meaning “bronze” to it meaning mostly “copper” that is obscured by poets / archaizing authors still using the older meaning. But I agree that in the naming of the ages, I would expect the older, epic / poetic meaning to be intended. FWIW, in the German tradition the generation of the third age is referred to as “bronzenes” or “ehernes Geschlecht” (using the word discussed by DM).

  44. PlasticPaddy says

    @dm
    is firchnussu from prefix (ver) + PG *knutton ‘to press, crush’ ?

  45. David Marjanović says

    prefix (ver)

    yes

    PG *knutton ‘to press, crush’ ?

    Probably related, but the ss is original (PG *ss, PIE *tst = a *T+T cluster), not from the HG consonant shift; the latter would be spelled zz, and the merger of apical s and laminal z only happened when MHG was over.

  46. Trond Engen says

    Scand. knuse v. “crush” ought to be related, but I don’t know how. It’s not a borrowing from German, because ON knosa.

  47. David Eddyshaw says

    This made me think of the Welsh cnuch, but that is only because of my inner twelve-year-old. Sadly, I don’t think the words can possibly be related.

  48. I misspelled nechosheth (biblehub wiktionary) as nekosheth above. To clarify what I meant, the paper Copper Age’—A History of the Concept):

    This confusion was further compounded in the English-speaking world by the use of the words ‘brass’ and ‘brazen’ in the King James Bible as a translation for the Hebrew for copper or bronze (e.g. Exod. 27:4; 38:8 & 38:10; Deut. 8:9; 2 Kgs 25:13). As John Lubbock (1865, p. 44) reminded his contemporaries, brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, was not invented until much later. The ancients’ failure to distinguish linguistically between copper and bronze explains why some antiquarians picked up Lucretius’ Three Ages (De rerum natura V, 1281–1288) as stone, bronze and iron, while others—such as Vedel Simonsen (1813, p. 76, note 1; English translation in Daniel 1967, pp. 90–91)—referred to ages of stone, copper and iron. Consequently, such early references should not be seen as indicating the concept of a Copper Age (pace Roberts and Freeman 2012, p. 27).

    WP, brass:

    The King James Bible makes many references to “brass”[50] to translate “nechosheth” (bronze or copper) from Hebrew to archaic English. The Shakespearean English use of the word ‘brass’ can mean any bronze alloy, or copper, an even less precise definition than the modern one.”

  49. David Marjanović says

    Brass was made in limited quantities in antiquity by smelting copper directly with a zinc ore (zinc metal was not prepared). That’s the oreichalkos of the Atlantis story and elsewhere.

  50. David Eddyshaw says:

    Nevertheless, aes was indeed disyllabic (somewhat mysteriously.)

    David Marjanović says:

    Perhaps because of the lost *j in between.

    Although de Vaan’s entry for this word refers to a “disyllabic form”, the ae in aes was a diphthong in Classical Latin, making aes a monosyllable and aeris a disyllable. I’m not sure what de Vaan means, but perhaps he’s refering to a hypothetical intermediate step between *ajes and the monosyllabic aes.

  51. David Eddyshaw says

    Exe|gi monu|ment(um) | aere pe|renni|us …

    Yes, it’s all true.

    Reading de Vaan more carefully, I see that it is only the adjective ahenus that he thinks might either be borrowed from, or owe its spelling to, Umbrian; though he does seem to imply that aes itself was disyllabic.

  52. PlasticPaddy says

    @dm, Trond
    *knusjanan > OE cnyssan, OHG knussen ‘strike’
    Source: R.D. Fulk, A Comparative Grammar of the Early Germanic Languages, p. 113 (John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2018)

  53. @Hans, I am mostly surprised with that people of antiquity (expert users of copper alloys!!!) used one noun – aes, chalkos, nechosheth – where we have many.

    a development from the word meaning “bronze” to it meaning mostly “copper” “, if by “meaning” we mean physical referents (rather than the idea, as when we metonymically refer to a thing), it needs synchronous existence of a word for bronze….

  54. David Eddyshaw says

    I am mostly surprised with that people of antiquity (expert users of copper alloys!!!) used one noun – aes, chalkos, nechosheth – where we have many.

    The original sense of all these words is now known to be “that new stuff, whatchamacallit.”

  55. It’s also possible that the expert users maintained a stricter vocabulary that doesn’t survive in the extant sources. The original sense of all these words may be closer to “those .exe files that the IT guys are always jabbering about.”

  56. @drasvi: I checked an English-Greek dictionary now, and it looks like chalkos simply was an undifferentiated term meaning both “copper” and “bronze”; at least, that dictionary has only that one term for both. So the above description in Liddell-Scott, with “bronze” being used by older authors and “copper” by later authors, seems to be based not on a development of the meaning, but on looking at what those authors were writing about for the purpose of translation.
    I am mostly surprised with that people of antiquity (expert users of copper alloys!!!) used one noun – aes, chalkos, nechosheth – where we have many.
    Well, I don’t know whether DE just meant to be facetious, but I think he may be right – chalkos was “that metal that all those tools and weapons are made of”, the same that we today say of things that they’re made of plastic, without bothering what exact kind of plastic they’re made of. If that is true, then probably the experts (smiths, sculptors etc.) had more specialised terms for when they needed them, which either haven’t survived in the literature or maybe were seen as too specialist for inclusion in generalist dictionaries of ancient Greek.
    Edit: Partly ninja’d by Ryan

  57. In my business there are a lot of different alloys that even professional welders and engineers just call steel. They do have more precise terms, but they’re often long and rarely needed. And that’s when they actually bother to use the word steel. In a looser context it may all just be iron.

    (I extrapolate from Norwegian stål and jern, but my understanding is that it works the same way in English )

  58. This kind of thing happens with all technologies, and is very unstable when they’re new; remember nylon, dacron, orlon, lonlon… I wonder about the language of weavers and knitters, the Greek of Penelope’s ladies; surely it’s lost…

  59. In a looser context it may all just be iron.

    My school teacher of chemistry claimed that it is her mission to teach us not to say “iron” when we mean “metal”.

  60. January First-of-May says

    That’s the oreichalkos of the Atlantis story and elsewhere.

    …including (ca. 1st century AD) Roman dupondii, which were correspondingly yellowish.

    (AFAIK the terms “brass”, “bronze”, and “copper” are fairly interchangeable these days in reference to the so-called base-metal coins, regardless of which actual copper-based alloy they were made of, if any. There are some attempts to distinguish them when referring to contexts, such as 1st century AD Rome, where multiple such alloys were used concurrently, but otherwise few people seem to care. Catalogs tend to abbreviate from Latin and call it AE.)

  61. David Eddyshaw says

    In Kusaal, “copper” and “bronze” are alike just kutzɛn’og “red iron.”

    I think West Africa skipped the Bronze Age and went straight to the Iron Age, so it’s not surprising.

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/182719

    BTW, there’s an interesting aside in this paper to the effect that the introduction of iron working in West Africa has often been linked to advent of agriculture, and dating iron-working rather late, to the mid-first millennium BC, in fact. It caught my eye because there are agricultural words reconstructable for Proto-Oti-Volta (not least, the word for “millet beer”) but not for ironworking: there are (at least) two quite different roots for “blacksmith”, and the one seen in Kusaal saen is confined to the subgroup of languages which have contrived to invert the original tone system somehow. The other word looks rather as if it may be just a repurposed “maker.”

  62. Wiki List of copper alloys

    Copper alloys are metal alloys that have copper as their principal component. They have high resistance against corrosion. The best known traditional types are bronze, where tin is a significant addition, and brass, using zinc instead. Both of these are imprecise terms, having both been commonly referred to as lattens in the past. Today the term copper alloy tends to be substituted, especially by museums.

    Olympic bronze medals are technically brass.

    [Olympic gold medals are silver gilt. In 1908 and 1912 Olympic team events, besides the gilt medals, a single solid-gold medal was presented to the winning captain (and sometimes a perpetual trophy to the team — I wonder where those are now).]

  63. January First-of-May says

    having both been commonly referred to as lattens in the past

    …presumably cognate to Russian латунь “brass” (which is probably a borrowing from somewhere, but offhand I don’t know from where).

  64. From MHG Latûn < Venetian lаtоn < It. latta ‘tin.’

  65. langaugehat,

    Max Vasmer, In German, латунь: “f. ‘Messing, Messingblech’. Entlehnt über nhd. Latûn ‘Messingblech’, bzw. mnd. laton dass. oder direkt aus ital. *lattone, venez. laton von latta ‘Latte’, … ”

    I the same etymology is implied for Italian ottone, then the alternative idea in Wiktionary is ‘[f]rom Arabic لَاطُون‎ (lāṭūn, “copper, copper alloy”), itself from Common Turkic *altun (“gold”).’, but I would love to see first attestations of this arabic word in this meaning.

    Trubachev in comments to Vasmer refers to Einiges über den Ursprung der Wörter für Messing / M. Räsänen (here) about *altun but I was not able to find it online. There must be more modern works…


    It was already in the draft of my comment to Hans above, that’s why in German. But eventually I shortened the comment. I began writing it yesterday, sometimes lazily googling soemthing, and it was getting messy…

  66. ə de vivre says

    Ancient Mesopotamians loved to list things, so we know lots of Sumerian metal terminology, but usually not much context. You can even check out yourself how 19th-century-BC scribes classified metal objects (metals start around line 481).

    Copper (urud), bronze (zabar), silver (kug babbar, ‘white metal’), and gold (kug [sis]sig, ‘yellow-green metal’) were the four metals that were the most culturally prevalent. Given how consistent the writing system was about distinguishing between copper and bronze, the distinction must have been culturally important.

    ‘Anna(k)’ (or maybe read, ‘nagga’) might have referred to tin, lead, or meteoric iron, also depending on whether it’s the same thing as ‘kug annak’ (lit. ‘sky metal’). ‘Agar/abar’ was lead, which we know because of Akkadian glosses (I’m not sure how sure we are that the Akkadian equivalent did in fact refer to lead).

    No one seems to know what ‘kug NE-a’ or ‘kug me-a’ meant. Presumably some kind of silver, which is what ‘kug’ tout court usually referred to.

  67. In Kusaal, “copper” and “bronze” are alike just kutzɛn’og “red iron.”

    Similarly in Hausa, at least as far as I can make out from various dictionaries around the web (most of which are rather old, so I’m not sure how reliable they are): one translates brass as farin karifi or jan karifi, literally ‘white iron’ or ‘red iron’; another glosses farin k’arfe as brass, zinc, or tin. Of course, these are clues that those color words are broader than the European ones.

  68. 498 urudšen utul₂  tureen-like cauldron
    499 urudšen za-ḫu-um  basin-like cauldron
    500 urudšen zi-ir  plastered cauldron

    I like the phrase “plastered cauldron.”

  69. David Eddyshaw says

    @ktschwartz:

    Kusaal has borrowed Hausa ƙarfe “metal” in the sense “o’clock”, e.g. karifa atan’ “three o’clock” = Hausa ƙarfe uku.

  70. David Eddyshaw says

    Kusaal kut “iron” is quite an interesting word, in fact (well, interesting to me.)

    It’s formally plural, like a lot of mass nouns, but has also acquired the sense “piece of iron, nail”, and then makes the double plural kutnam “nails.”

    The singular kudʋg is no longer in everyday use in Kusaal, but is preserved in personal names, where it is quite common. I had a (superb) colleague who wrote his name as “Akudibillah”: despite the vaguely Arabic look of it, this is actually Kusaal Akudbil “Small Iron”, which signifies that he has an elder brother Akudʋg “Akudugu”, i.e. “Iron”, with whom he shares a sigir “spiritual guardian.” The name means that the aforesaid spiritual guardian is the win “spiritual essence” of a powerful tree; the “iron” in question is actually a marker driven into the tree to show its religious importance.

    I noticed just now that this etymon is not confined to the tone-inverting subgroup of Western Oti-Volta, Buli/Konni and Yom/Nawdm (Buli kutuk, Yom kur) as I thought, but turns up in Gurma too, e.g. Moba kud. Moba has a fair number of WOV loanwords, but the tones of this word show that it’s cognate rather than borrowed. It’s not found in the Eastern Oti-Volta languages though.

    Oti-Volta as a whole must pretty certainly be older than the presumed date for the introduction of ironworking in West Africa, based on the archaeological evidence adduced in the paper I linked to above.

  71. I’ve been something of a plastered cauldron myself during my wilder years…

  72. ܣܒ ܒܠܬܝ ܩܘܦܪܘܢܢ.
    sb blti qwprwn /sab belati ….?/ “take Cyprian copper…”

    The meaning “copper” is expressed with Belati, Venus. Makes all the more sense, given that Venus is a Cypriot:)

    link: Supplement to the Thesaurus Syriacus of R. Payne Smith, p 57., left.

  73. And Belati is the feminine form of Baal, I presume? Is there any evidence that identification of metals with gods go back to Phoenician and beyond? The Mars/Venus pairing seems almost arbitrary within a classic pantheon and would make more sense in a dualistic cultic system around a male/female consort pair.

  74. David Eddyshaw says

    “Venus” in Kusaal is Nwaddar, literally “Male Star”, which is not an unreasonable name for the brightest of all stars if your star-naming practices owe nothing at all to Mesopotamia.

    (The moon, nwadig, is regarded as female, and the word for “star”, nwadbil, is formally a diminutive of that. Historically, things seem to have been the other way round: the nwadig etymon seems to have originally meant “star”, and has ousted the original word for “moon”, leading to the need for a new formation to express “star” again.)

  75. David Eddyshaw says

    The Mars/Venus pairing seems almost arbitrary

    And adulterous, of course.

    I imagine that Venus fell for Mars because deep down she remembered that she was really Ishtar, goddess of sex and slaughter. And Vulcan was just too bourgeois.

  76. LH, c новосельем!

  77. @David, Ryan, Hans, when I worte about it, I also thought about plastic! For me – and for some hypothetical post-apocaliptic users who will have 3 nouns for 3 sorts of plastic (that they find in ruins:)).

    But how we can formulate the hypothesis about the conditions for such a change in semantics? (so that we can predict such shifts and test it based on predictions)?

  78. But’s are:

    1. (DE) “that new stuff, whatchamacallit.”

    By then it was millenia old stuff :-/

    2. (Hans) “plastic”

    We can not say that they were “naïve” compared to us. I think we are naïve and distinguish between a too few sorts of brass. Mediterranean upper class houses were full of coppery utensils. When a girl went to the market she was more likely to buy a copper plate than you or I. Craftsmen worked with copper rather than jawascript.

    A large number of varieties of bronze of various colours were known to the ancients, and it seems that they tinted their statues by making them of a judicious mixture of sorts. Thus we find mention of a bronze Iocasté that was pale, of an Athamas that blushed, and of a Pallas with ruddy cheeks made by Phidias. (link…)

    So I think what has changed in the role of copper is:

    “fundamental for them” vs. “less basic for us” rather than
    “stupid them” vs. “smart medieval people and we”.

    Also a comparison to wine is surprisingly good: I distinguish many regions and 2-3 colours. In Greek and Roman sources copper also is distinguished by regions and … it seems, the same two colours:/

  79. 3. (Ryan) “It’s also possible that the expert users maintained a stricter vocabulary that doesn’t survive in the extant sources. The original sense of all these words may be closer to “those .exe files that the IT guys are always jabbering about.”

    The paper about brass also distinguishes between kinds of professionals: those who do initial smelting where ore is found and intermediary craftsmen working with bronze in many other places.

    Different groups of professionals know different things about copper and use different words. Their influence on Greek usage is also different. Customers are different too.
    Customers in modern jewelry shop here too distinguish between “red gold” and “white gold” (again!).

    But what I meant by “expert users” is exactly expert customers. I think where you and I know that this bronze utensil is nice and that one is ugly, they distinguished between kinds of khalk based on mechanical and aesthetical properties, even if they knew little about its composition.

  80. Venus, red, white: Notices alchimiques tirées du lexique syriaque de Bar Bahloul (La chimie au moyen âge, Berthelot, p 123 of the translation):

    Ἀφροδίτη (col. 267, I. 3), Vénus. Les artisans emploient sou signe pour le cuivre[3] et ce signe est le suivant: [pic] D’autres appellen ἀφροδίτη le cuivre rouge, et Bilati le cuivre blanc[4]. On l’appelle aussi aphroudou; aphroudou brûlé et ramené à sa nature, c’est-à-dire cuivre brûlé (oxydé) et fondu (réduit) de nouveau.

    It is this edition (but different manuscripts/texts) that the thesaurus above (“take Cyprian Bilati”…) refers to.

  81. My laptop computer is having trust issues and is falling in and out og faith in the new site.

    I tried posting another comment about gods and metals in which I speculated that the red planet Mars might have been identified with the weapons material copper, and hence the male god, in the Bronze Age. With the advent of the Iron Age, the male god became the god of Iron, and copper, now a material for jewellery and kitchenware, was transferred to his consort.

  82. Here everything is perfect.

  83. I should perhaps make those meta-comments in the “Hosting needed” thread

  84. It is easy to fix.

    My dear reader of 2(0?)34! The very fact that you are reading this attests to the fact that the third world war, the one after which – according to the prophesy – we will have to fight with sticks and stones (if we ill fight at all), has not happened yet, and you are alive. Today LH changed the hosting provider and migrated to a new server….

  85. OTOH, iron ore is red and copper ore is green.

  86. LH, c новосельем!

    И теперь комфорт, покой, уют летом и зимой!

  87. @Trond, when you wrote about identification of metals with gods and then about dualistic cults, did you mean that iron is traditionally paired with copper? If yes, I did not know about this. We call mercury “Mercury” (and nickel and cobalt “Nickel and cobalt”:-)), and I did not think about copper and iron as a pair…

  88. I’m asking about how far back the identification of certain gods with certain metals can be traced. In the classic (or post-classic) Western tradition, we use the whole pantheon, but Belati with copper in your quoted text made me think that this might be another local interpretation of an older Levantine or Mesopotamian tradition. The Mars/Venus mumbo-jumbo is just me making a just-so story about the origin.

  89. WiP has a pretty sketchy article on archaeometallurgy; my impression is that a lot may be known to specialists via isotopic analysis but I don’t know if or where anybody has tried to put things together. I gather the Etruscans for example were early players in the nonferrous trade, and that eg Caucasian and Canaanite metallurgy have big literatures (for fun try googling Haaretz Canaanite volcano god)… SubSaharan africa supposedly sublimed straight from the neolithic to the iron age pretty late in the game, but I gather that the copper/arsenic/tin/bronze transition in Eurasia is currently quite a mystery. Then there’s China… Anthrometallurgy appears to be simutaneously fascinating and nonexistent in this timeline, I will look around…

    [New website looks great, thanks to Songdog and other kobolds laboring in the deep underground…]

  90. A good discussion of «энеолит», for those who read Russian (thanks, Elya!).

  91. Google translate does (what seems to me to be) a pretty readable job on this site. However, it doesn’t seem to have any references more recent than 1980, nor is there much mention of the Sintashta culture. There is some interesting genomic speculation about that at

    https://eurogenes.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-mystery-of-sintashta-people.html

    (YMMV).

  92. 1. I assume, people who study copper metallurgy are more likely to speak about “Copper age”.

    2. In English terms “Chalcolithic” and “Copper age” are often used interchangeably on the same page. It happens so often that the word Chalko- began to sound red to me!

    prediction: both terms are more likely to be applied to countries with local copper metallurgy.

    illustration: “Eneolithic of Bulgaria and the Chalcolithic or Copper Age of Hungary” above.

    3. eneolithic does not sound this way to me. It sounds like… “something after the Neolithic”.

    4. in Italian età enea is a synonym of l’età del bronzo.

    Italians must know, but I guess that eneo (French airain) means: “aes”:-)

  93. Correction: I meant,
    airain means “aes”
    eneo means “aenean”

    I do not know if Italian has the noun, I just mean, both languages have a form distinct both from their normal words and from Latin words. Other langauges do not have this meaning.

  94. David Marjanović says

    copper ore is green

    Malachite, IIRC the oldest known copper ore, spans the whole range of turquoise, so blue things could be associated with copper about as easily as green ones. Just saying.

  95. Google translate does (what seems to me to be) a pretty readable job on this site.

    I just realized that pdf is an obstacle for scientific collaboration.

    —–

    jack morava, it is Eneolithic of USSR, a large red volume, one of 20 volumes of Archaeology of USSR. Despite the size, it is an overview of many things that existed on the “1/6 of [Earth’s] land mass” as we referred to USSR (rather ironically than proudly).

    Chapter 4 (of 4) “South USSR and Eurasian Steppes” is only 9 pages long, 4 for Yamnaya, 1.5 for Afanasiev. Apparently, they mostly wrote about Eneolithic cultures in other volumes, and the next one (the Bronze Age of the Forest Belt, forests and the forest steppe) is dealing with Eneolithic in some regions.

    Sintashta was not as famous back then, but I assume it was included in Andronovo. Andronovo is Bronze age, its part is there while another part is discussed in “the Epoch of Bronze of Eurasian Steppes”, but this volume I do not see online. Two more bronze volumes are Early/Middle Bronze of Caucasus and Late Bronze of Caucasus and Central Asia.

    TOC:
    Bronze Age
    Eneolithic

  96. Во-вторых, и это более важно, основанием для такого заключения является ныне уже многочисленная серия костяных округлых пластинчатых псалиев с шипами, обнаруженных в памятниках абашевской и ан- дроновской общностей (Пряхин, 1976а, с. 122—125; Кузьмина, 1980, I). Особенно большая серия псалиев найдена в могилах Синташты (Генинг, 1977, с. 53-73).

    Прямые параллели этим псалиям в IV шахтовой гробнице Микен уже много раз обсуждались в литературе (Лесков, 1964, с. 303; Оапсеа, 1976, s.71-73; Huttel, 1981, s. 40—48 и др.)

    “Secondly, and more importantly, this conclusion is based on the now already numerous series of rounded bone plate псалии with spikes, found at sites of Abashevo and Andronovo communities (refs). An especially large series of псалии is found in graves of Sintashta (ref).
    Direct parallels to those псалии in the IV shaft grave in Mycenae has already been discussed many times (refs)”

  97. @dravsi, thanks:

    … eneolithic does not sound this way to me. It sounds like… “something after the Neolithic”.

    But it `is’ after the neolithic? Maybe I misunderstand…

    [I understood there were other, probably more relevant, volumes in the series, but didn’t know enough Russian to chase them down by myself. Nevertheless, I believe there is much more information available now, eg from genomics, about the `copper age in central asia’ than then; but that literature is (I gather) complicated by controversies about ethnic politics uzw…

  98. @David Marjanović: To me, malachite means something distinctly green [predominantly Cu₂CO₃(OH)₂], whereas the less common blue copper carbonate ore [Cu₃(CO₃)₂(OH)₂] has the apt name azurite, and the Web seems to agree with me. The different coordination environments around the copper (II) centers lead to shifts in the positions of the charge transfer bands that are responsible for the intense coloration. Of course, the two ores are frequently found side by side, or in mixed pseudomorphs.

  99. But it `is’ after the neolithic? Maybe I misunderstand…

    I think drasvi was talking about the way the word sounded to him, not the historical facts. The -neo- part sounds like it should be related to the start of “neolithic,” even though it’s not.

  100. псалии. (I just do not know what is the English word for these… )

    @jack, as I said, despite the size it is just an overview. I also did not like their approach. As they say themselves, there is a more detailed biblographical series, and here they offer analysis rather than details.
    But details and references are what we love, while analyzis changes as new details are found.

    Arkaim (a city) was discovered a few years later, and is popular here among freaks. It was discovered by two schoolboys – as a part of official survey, but schoolboys anyway – and was awaiting the fate of a half of Egypt (Egypt is a linear country, so lake Nasser covers 1/4 of it, not a small part of the sea of sand as some think). But then USSR collapsed and due to the lack of funding which DM reffers to above it survived:)

    Those freaks, they are not appealing (I mean, the kind of freaks who want to… reconnect with the force? or something like that. I love freaks, but this is not my method of madness.).
    Then in 2000 racism became popular, and new freaks are even repulsive:(

    Sintashta is my “to explore” list, but only since recently. Meanwhile, while I was looking elsewhere they now speak about whole https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_of_Towns .

    —-

    LH, yes!

  101. @dravsi, many thanks. I think I know what you mean about freaks. Outliers often know interesting things but dark places I don’t need . Thanks to LH, I see now how eneolithic might suggest pre- rather than post-neolithic.

  102. Well, there are not too many of them. I never heard anyone discussing Arkaim (I would if I watched TV…). When you browse a social network, you see sometimes imagis with text and [Stonehenge, UFOs, pyramids…]. IN Russian it is sometimes Arkaim. But it is good news: for one thing, now they won’t submerge it, and research will be better funded. I simply shared it as a one more detail about Sintashta (“S. in modern Russian culture”)

  103. No, no. Summing up and clearing misunderstandings. The eneolithic is one of two competing terms for the copper age (or “copper stone age”) on the transition between the neolithic (“agricultural stone age”) and the bronze age. The element eneo- has nothing to do with neo-.

  104. And epicenter does not mean “a center of a disaster that is especially disastrous in the center [unlike the eye of the storm]”.

  105. Egypt is a linear country

    I’d think it would be at least polynomeial

  106. The rigorous question to ask is about the Hausdorff dimension of Egypt.

  107. A population density map. Egypt is low quality but it* has Africa. Egypt is fully identical to Egyptian depiction of river flowers (and their national symbol).

    I think I like density maps.

    And to clarify: I agree with Trond, of course.

    it: the map

  108. drasvi: I think I like density maps.

    And to clarify: I agree with Trond, of course.

    Then I can confirm that you do indeed like density maps!

  109. David Marjanović says

    That’s right about malachite, of course. It’s been a while.

    neolithic (“agricultural stone age”)

    Not e.g. in Siberia, where agriculture came later than bronze; there, the term is traditionally applied to stone-age cultures with ceramics.

    (Conversely, farther southwest, ceramics reached some places later than agriculture, so you can get an “aceramic Neolithic”.)

  110. I know. but I was thumbing on my phone and let the quotes do too much work. I’ve actually thought (and may have said so before) that I want to call it the Ceramic Age.

    Bondesteinalder “farmers’ stone age” is an older (but still current) Norwegian term. I’d be surprised if it weren’t calqued from German.

  111. >I think I like density maps.

    https://xkcd.com/2439/

  112. David Marjanović says

    I’d be surprised if it weren’t calqued from German.

    That’s what it looks like, but it’s not – Neusteinzeit, to go with Mittelsteinzeit & Altsteinzeit. Followed by Kupfer(stein)zeit as mentioned, then Bronzezeit (Bronze pronounced as close to à la française as people can get, which varies), then Eisenzeit.

  113. PlasticPaddy says

    @trond
    I suppose you know this, but the bondesteinalder follows the jegersteinalder (hunter stone age). As DM says, this is not borrowed from a German *Jägersteinalter or *Jägersteinzeit.

  114. Kupfersteinzeit” – !!!!! I did not know.

    In the Chalcolithic (Kupferzeit, Kupfersteinzeit), copper seems to have been limited to prestige objects.

    The paper mentioned above* describes the sequence of events this way:

    – 19th century: there is a discussion of whether there was a “Copper Age” in Europe.

    IF metallurgy was local idea, there necessary should be a copper stage.
    IF bronze tech was imported from the East, it is not necessary.

    He adds “there was still controversy about the validity of the Three Age System” and I do not understand what it was about, but a third group are promoting the system and (as he suspects) unwilling to comlicate it.

    One argument is presence of copper objects that imitate stone tools: this would be an evidence of local development: “…As yet scarcely any notice has been [p. 356] taken of our Irish copper weapons, apparently the forerunners of the mixed metal – bronze or brass.… There can be little doubt that these copper celts are the very oldest metal artefacts in the Collection, and were probably the immediate successors of a similar class of implement of stone…” (WIlde, 1861)

    But it is accepted that a copper period necessarily existed elsewhere, where metallurgy was invented. And: “…the Mississippi valley, Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis had noted the finding of large numbers of tools and ornaments made of copper. These were cold-worked from native copper and likely originated from the Lake Superior area, where ancient mines were also known …

    In this debate proponents of CA originate from Spain and Hungary.where copper objects are found.

    Eventually CA party wins, but British archaeologists do not want to posit CA to this day.

    Meanwhile, simultaneously with the debate but without reference to it, “eneo-lithic” (with hyphen) appears in Italy with reference to sites where metal daggers and metal axes are found simultaneously with stone daggers and stone axes.

    Note how I said “metal”.

    – 20th century

    Emphasis on society rather than metallurgy.
    Consistency issues: terms are used depending on the author, concerns and region in question.

    much of the Late Neolithic of the Vinča culture of Yugoslavia … being synchronous with the Eneolithic of Bulgaria and the Chalcolithic or Copper Age of Hungary’, while ‘the Eneolithic (Baden-Kostolac-Vučedol) cultures of Yugoslavia are often called Early Bronze Age in neighboring countries’.


    *(The ‘Copper Age’—A History of the Concept, link)

  115. I’m told that pre-Columbian trade in North America was centered around the copper deposits around the Great Lakes

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallurgy_in_pre-Columbian_America

    and that (in spite for example of the ecological richness of the Chesapeake bay), N America east of the Mississippi was very lightly populated; and that the coastal people, eg in Tidewater Virginia, were interested in foreign invaders mostly for their metal. It is interesting that some First People further inland, eg the Monacans, moved west in response to the invasion.

  116. N America east of the Mississippi was very lightly populated

    What’s the evidence for that?

  117. David Marjanović says

    Eventually CA party wins, but British archaeologists do not want to posit CA to this day.

    Given that the quote is from 1861, I wonder if it was possible to tell those artefacts were made of pure copper as opposed to arsenic/lead/whatever bronzes, or even actual tin bronze with less tin in it, without noticeably destructive sampling.

  118. I guess no.
    20th century method of choice, I think (I am not speciast) is X-ray fluorescence.

    But destructive methods were already applied: I saw references to (destructive) laboratory analysis in books about numismatics and in the article where “eneo-lithic” was first coined the author also mentioned bringing an artefact to Prof. such and such in lab X in university Y. And noted elsewhere that the when scholar Z calls something copper (or bronze?), actual laboratory analazis has not been done.

  119. PlasticPaddy says

    @hat
    I think the evidence is indirect: intensive farming of staple crop (maize) not found in the East, therefore populations smaller than where intensive farming is known to have been practiced.

  120. I learned this from a spousal colleague, cf

    Jeffrey L. Hantman, Monacan Millennium: A Collaborative Archaeology and History of a Virginia Indian People

    https://www.upress.virginia.edu/title/5099 .

    [I’m thinking of the period after the decline of the

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahokia

    culture.]

  121. I thought the evidence was that many died of disease, with villages and towns abandoned, before the English showed up to document the size of the populations. De Soto seemed to find towns every few miles, right? That’s the Southeast, but at least there, a distinct decline took place.

  122. I thought the evidence was that many died of disease, with villages and towns abandoned, before the English showed up to document the size of the populations.

    That was my understanding as well.

  123. That’s what I intended by referring to the decline of the Cahokia culture. I don’t know how well that’s understood these days.

  124. Cahokia itself fell long before 1492, but mound cities of the “Mississippian culture” that Cahokia was part of were still all over the southeast when DeSoto arrived. Most, though not all, had collapsed by the 1600s. I have less familiarity with the pre-Columbian populations along the Atlantic coast, but my understanding is that it was fairly similar – somewhat less advanced, but that in many cases, English settlers were literally cultivating the “old fields” of former native villages. There wasn’t the same hew a farm out of the forest phase that later colonists went through, pushing west to lands long abandoned, devastated first by disease, then by Iroquois raids.

    Lincoln was the Railsplitter, a skill that hadn’t been as salient among the Pilgrims or the first Virginia colonists.

  125. I don’t mean to disagree, but European diseases can’t have appeared earlier than the Europeans. It seems possible that there might be some kind of evidence for pre-Columbian diseases; somebody must know…

  126. In Eastern New England there was inter alia a devastating epidemic circa 1616 (after John Smith’s first voyage to the area during which his second-in-command abducted Squanto, but before the arrival of the Mayflower), so disease had helped create a vacuum for the incoming settlers to fill. But it wasn’t like epidemics sweeping up from New Spain had already obliterated the locals generations before the first attempts at European settlement (although they may have happened elsewhere), and one common estimate for the indigenous population for all of New England as of A.D. 1600 is 60,000, which is imho a much less dense footprint than a Cahokia-style society would have had. Similarly, my impression of the earlier history of the Hudson Valley, Delaware Valley, Chesapeake + Susquehanna etc. is that they were compared to other bits of North America pretty lightly populated before European contact even if they became even less-populated by indigenes following European contact.

  127. European diseases got to Peru before Pizarro did. The Incas’ emperor and crown prince had died, along with many others. By the time the Spaniards arrived, the local regime was already in the midst of a political and economic crisis, which was one of the factors that enabled Pizarro to conquer the Inca empire with his tiny force.

  128. For a while Jomon culture in Japan was described as producers of oldest pottery in teh world.

    Yesterday I opened the article in Wikipedia and saw: “The manufacture of pottery typically implies some form of sedentary life because pottery is heavy, bulky, and fragile and thus generally unusable for hunter-gatherers. However, this does not seem to have been the case with the first Jōmon people, who perhaps numbered 20 000 individuals over the whole archipelago”

  129. David Marjanović says

    I don’t mean to disagree, but European diseases can’t have appeared earlier than the Europeans. It seems possible that there might be some kind of evidence for pre-Columbian diseases; somebody must know…

    The fall of Cahokia has actually been blamed on a European disease working its way southwest from some Viking landing site, though obviously that’s speculative. I think I encountered the speculation in a work on that dubious runestone in Minnesota.

    Should be testable with ancient DNA. Unless it’s an RNA virus. Pox is DNA, though.

  130. Oh, dear… (clutches pearls…)

  131. (Conversely, farther southwest, ceramics reached some places later than agriculture, so you can get an “aceramic Neolithic”.)

    Or “Pre-Pottery Neolithic” .

    Samples of titles I happen to have in my archaeology stuff:

     • The Epipalaeolithic and Pre-Pottery Neolithic of Lebanon
     • Emergence of corpse cremation during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Southern Levant
     • Funerals and feasts during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B of the Near East
     • Nahal Yarmuth 38: a new and unique Pre-Pottery Neolithic B site in central Israel
     • Token Finds at Pre-Pottery Neolithic ‘Ain Ghazal, Jordan
     • Archaeo-Metallurgical Researches in the Southern Arabah 1959-1990 Part I: Late Pottery Neolithic to Early Bronze IV

  132. David Marjanović says

    Ah, yes, that term is much more widespread.

  133. Of course, before the Stone Age is the Wood Age and the Grass Age. We are still in the former period.

  134. Pottery Neolithic

    😮
    Sounds crazy. I do not know why, maybe English -ery nouns do not become adjectives so easily (in my L2 reader brain). At least semantics is strange.

    BTW: Yesterday, 30 years after learning “pottery” from Sid Meier’s Civilization*, alongside with “bronze working”, “ironclad” (and also “sorcerer” and other useful words from other games) I realized that it is derived from “pot”.

    *Pottery is a technology that enables you to build “granary” and the Hanging Gardens.
    https://civilization.fandom.com/wiki/Pottery_(Civ1)

  135. David Marjanović says

    do not become adjectives so easily

    I think they don’t. Instead, I interpret Pottery Neolithic as a compound noun. 🙂

  136. Pottery seems to be easy to invent, provided that you have clay and fire. Clay can be shaped, it must be immediately noticed but any maker of things (or a child). Clay can be baked, that is easy to notice too. A primitive baby-made cup or figurine already appears useful… Also for anyone who builds houses or shelters with mud, there is no real qualitative difference between a large clay (or clay and grass, or clay and a basket) container and a hut. I think I am missing something.

    I know that some modern palaeolithic peoples do not use it. Why? Why Homo erectus did not do it?

    I see how we can posit different degrees of adoption: up to reliance on it, buying it or looking for appropriate clay when you do not have it. But it is just degrees, it is not a barrier. What is the barrier?

    If we call it generally useless, we can say that sedentary lifestyle allows it. I would rather say that agriculture necessitates it. Yet I do not see how it is “useless” and we have both agriculturalists without pottery and foragers with pottery.

    And why did it – and also about agriculture and cities – appear in different parts of world in roughtly the same (compared to hundreds thousand years of preceding history) period? Did some revolution happen 30kya in Eurasia?

    This: “Around 8000 BCE, before the invention of pottery, several early settlements became experts in crafting beautiful and highly sophisticated containers from stone, using materials such as alabaster or granite, and employing sand to shape and polish.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Pottery_Neolithic_B) sounds simply unbelievable.

    Just look at their jars. I can’t make such a jar. Even if I could, huge amoung of labour was invested in them. I would never have invented plaster. But clay… And they are telling that these people could not invent pottery, and began writing on clay tablets after inventing it?

  137. compound noun

    I think even then it is strange. But “Pottery” qualifies “Neolithic” and unlike “table” in “tableware” parallel Pre-Pottery can have some freedom: “This Stone Age is pre-pottery” does not sound too weird to me (L2 reader and writer and nt even a speaker again).

    And then that Stone Age is pottery:-/

  138. @drasvi: Things often look obvious in hindsight, but aren’t at the time. I assume that, for a forager lifestyle, containers made of organic material were simply sufficient, so even if people noticed that certain kinds of mud became solid and didn’t crumble when baked in a fire, they didn’t see a sufficiently big advantage to bother. At some point, storing bigger quantities long time became important enough, and the idea spread. Ceramics are one of the most durable and frequently found archaeological remains, so I think if we don’t have pottery before a certain date, it really wasn’t there.

  139. Perhaps see

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wattle_and_daub ?

    `Among other things, she [Elizabeth Wayland Barber] has proposed that if 19th-century scientists had thought to name prehistorical periods with an eye on women’s work and the things they invented, instead of focusing their naming only on men’s more durable inventions (Iron Age, Bronze Age, etc.), that they might have acknowledged women’s invention of string as what she has named “The String Revolution.”

    The idea is that string enables hunter-gatherers to carry their items with them [much like the characters in video games these days]. Possession of string is linked to the invention of braiding and weaving: technologies which make deep cognitive demands.,,

  140. Elizabeth Wayland Barber

    My first linguistics teacher! She was a wonderful teacher, endlessly patient with students who took forever to grasp simple concepts. (I am not like that, and was a lousy teacher.)

  141. women

    In Mali, a firing mound is used rather than a brick or stone kiln. Unfired pots are first brought to the place where a mound will be built, customarily by the women and girls of the village. The mound’s foundation is made by placing sticks on the ground, then:

    […] pots are positioned on and amid the branches and then grass is piled high to complete the mound. Although the mound contains the pots of many women, who are related through their husbands’ extended families, each women is responsible for her own or her immediate family’s pots within the mound. When a mound is completed and the ground around has been swept clean of residual combustible material, a senior potter lights the fire. A handful of grass is lit and the woman runs around the circumference of the mound touching the burning torch to the dried grass. Some mounds are still being constructed as others are already burning.

    also

    La Chamba in the Tolima Department is known for its blackware. The women potters here also create brown and red ware.

    Author Josefina Pla observed that women are typically potters, and animals associated with men are not represented in Guaraní pottery.

    Women have traditionally been the ceramic artists in the Amazon. Female figures are common in anthropomorphic effigy vessels. Tangas are a unique Amazonian cultural item; they are triangular, concave ceramic pubic coverings held in place by strings, once worn by women of several Amazonian tribes. Today, they are still worn by girls during their puberty rites among Panoan-speaking peoples

  142. Was anybody claiming women had nothing to do with pottery?

  143. jack moravaj says

    I think the issue is that the prehistory of women’s culture is in general a neglected question. [Sarah is older than Israel, cf Robertson Smith circa 1890]

  144. Yes, that’s the issue; I’m just not sure what drasvi’s comment had to do with it.

  145. I imagine a potter as a man myself and we were speaking about pottery (and now women). And words “girls,” “women”, “matriarchs” etc. are massively present in articles about pottery in Wikipedia. Sorry for the extensive quotation, it illustrates my subjective impression from reading them. In some cultures it is a female role.

    But technically yes, “men’s more durable inventions”. I am also not sure that the first people to melt or smelt metals and ore were men.
    I’m just not sure what drasvi’s comment had to do with it.
    Just an expression of surprise. If others imagined first potters and metallurgs as women, or in gender-netural way, then I was the only idiot here.

  146. Ah, I see. I myself (perhaps because of Professor Barber!) never saw pottery as a particularly male occupation (in fact, I’ve known female potters), so I was confused.

  147. Yes, the only ceramic artist I know in person is a woman (a descendant of a number of funny 19th century characters, starting from the doctor who was treating Pushkin after the duel:)).

    But when I think about traditional crafts, I imagine someone like this: pottery wheel, India, 1910 or earlier. Women in my imagination make clothing (and wear it)*. I actually did not mean anything specific: I just keep seeing references to girls and women, and wanted to convey the impression as such.

    One particularly surprising thing is association of women with fire: not ovens for cooking, but industrial use of fire, as in the former quotation about Mali.


    * Somewhat in the spirit of the ‘string revolution’ proposal, which still can be defended** even if metallurgy is initially women’s job too:) What matters for naming epochs is what professors think about who did what, not the reality.

    ** “defended” – division of labour in its formulation, I mean.

  148. Things often look obvious in hindsight,

    Bow and arrow and the vases in the link do not look obvious to me at all!

  149. Levi-Strauss psychoanalyzes pottery in `The jealous potter’ (AFAICT),

    https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1988-97617-000

    … Every figure mentioned in the book is either jealous of someone else or the object of someone else’s jealousy. There is jealousy between husbands and wives, one suitor and another, celestial and chthonic gods, and gods and humans. Jealousy is often over pottery: whoever has the power to make pottery stirs jealousy in others (pp. 21, 28) and is possessive oneself (p. 178)….

  150. David Marjanović says

    And why did it – and also about agriculture and cities – appear in different parts of world in roughtly the same (compared to hundreds thousand years of preceding history) period?

    Because the climate allowed it by becoming stable for the first time in at least 400,000 years.

  151. It looks weak (not in the sense “untrue”). Wikipedia has a list in Neolithic Revolution, and it is there.

    Peter Richerson, Robert Boyd, and Robert Bettinger[27] make a case for the development of agriculture coinciding with an increasingly stable climate at the beginning of the Holocene. Ronald Wright’s book and Massey Lecture Series A Short History of Progress[28] popularized this hypothesis.

    [27] Was Agriculture Impossible during the Pleistocene but Mandatory during the Holocene? A Climate Change Hypothesis, P. Richerson, R. Boyd, R. Bettinger, 2001, link

    As it is an article rather than a book, I will take a look (by “weak” I meant also that demonstrating the idea would take a book. ).

  152. Apologies for chewing up the scenery here, but this seems to be a significant paper:

    The origins and spread of domestic horses from the Western Eurasian steppes
    https://www.ebi.ac.uk/ena/browser/view/PRJEB44430

    … we map the population changes accompanying domestication from 273 ancient horse genomes. This reveals that modern domestic horses ultimately replaced almost all other local populations as they rapidly expanded across Eurasia from ~2,000 BCE, synchronously with equestrian material culture, including Sintashta spoke-wheeled chariots…

  153. “spoke-wheeled”

    Made me think of Indian wheel symbols (chakra, Ashoka chakra on the Indian flag, Dharma chakra, chakravartin…). But WP says, they were common in Indus Valley Civilization:-/

    (I wrote it yesterday and wanted to post it now to draw attention to parallel links – but I see, Trond said it already. I post it anyway. It is becoming hard to navigate LH without Commented-On:()

  154. A couple of the plates of the Gundestrup Cauldron feature spoked wheels. One of the gods shown is gripping such as wheel as an attribute.

  155. I’ve been told that centaurs were what the Myceneans made of rumors of horses, who knows; the Trundholm chariot is said to be dated to 1400 BC, and it looks like the Mitanni are credited with bringing horses into Anatolia around 1700 BC, whereas Gundestrup seems to be dated much later (200 BC?). See perhaps R A Lafferty, Nine Hundred Grandmothers?

  156. An circle or oval resembling a six-spoked wheel occurs in a number of contexts, especially as a sign in the script, written vertically. It is likely that it represented the sun disc since spoked wheels had not been invented by this time, and this is a way that many cultures have chosen to represent the sun.

    In some cases, suggested meanings can be ruled out on cultural grounds: For example, the oval or circle divided into six looks just like a spoked wheel, but this interpretation is impossible because the spoked wheel was invented centuries after the sign came into use and thousands of miles away; much more plausible is its interpretation as a chakra, a symbol that was part of later Indian iconography, representing royalty and divinity.

    Mahadevan also argued that the sign resembling (but definitely not representing) a six-spoked wheel originally signified the sun; this sign was important in later Indian iconography as the chakra, symbolizing divinity, sovereignty, and dharma (moral or religious duty). Mahadevan suggests thatthe meanings may derive from a rebus in Dravidian: *vec/vey/ve-, giving homonyms meaning the sun, god, and king. The chakra sign appears frequently in Harappan inscriptions. On several copper axes and a magnificentzebu seal, the same sequence of seven signs is inscribed, including a pair ofchakra signs: Parpola (1994) suggests this may have been a royal title. A sequence of four signs on the Dholavira signboard partially matches this sign sequence, and, of the nine signs on the signboard, four are the chakra; in this case too, the meaning “god or king” is consistent with the inscription’s likely content.

    From a book referenced by Wikipedia (in its claim about wheel symbol in IVC), The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives by Jane Mcintosh. Bullshit:((((

    A wheel-like symbol is a possible indication of presence of spoked wheels. You can not dismiss it based on “because everyone thinks that spoked wheels were invented elsewhere”. It will remain possible.

    What on Earth does mean “spoked wheels were invented’? What we know about Harappans is: (1) numeros toy carts with solid wheels (2) wheel tracks (3) possible indirect indication of spinning wheel (quality of thread) (4) use of turntable. and (5) use of the symbol in the script (also: Dholavira: “The structure consists of ten radial mud-brick walls built in the shape of a spoked wheel.”)

    Indian solid wheels for carts are sold on eBay and we make them for our cars ourselves. But for bycicles and spinning we use spoked wheels. Yes, Harappans did not invade Europe with chariots, and?

  157. I assume, “invention” of spoked wheel includes various uses and various technologies for making it. Some won’t produce wheels that you can install on a heavy cart or a chariot.
    Some will, but you won’t install them there anyway.

    If the symbol has nothing to do with the wheel, the suggested history is:
    – first the symbol reresenting sun
    – next the object of identical shape came and merged with the former.

  158. I would guess that spoked wheels require steam bending technology (for the rims) and probably lathes for the spokes. I don’t know much about the history of either of those inventions though, except that they had lathes in New Kingdom Egypt.

    As to whether spoked circle decorations are or are not indicative of spoked wheel technology: I would be interested in knowing how the number of spokes in such depictions varies over time and space. Four-spoked wheels are not normally strong enough to work, but quartered circles are common in iconography. Six spokes or eight are nicely symmetric (in different ways) and thus appealing as abstract designs, whereas lots of real wheels have even more spokes.

  159. @Y: I wonder what advantage that has over a solid wedge put together out of the same six sectors. Is the decrease in weight really enough to matter?

  160. Maybe it’s more elastic and less liable to break?

    Or maybe that is just a decorative model and not a functional wheel?

  161. The condensed history at that wiki page is amazing, Y. In three sentences, the spoked wheel passes from Sintashta in 2000 bce to Caucasian peoples who “joined with Mediterranean peoples” to break Minoan dominance to the advantage of Sparta and Athens.

  162. The description of the ancient spoked wheel doesn’t make much sense to me. If you were to take a lateral slice of a nice round tree trunk, the grain of the wood would more or less follow the circumference, so the outer layers would naturally have good strength. That slice would make a somewhat plausible wheel.

    However, carving spokes into such a slice would be a terrible idea, because the grain would run crosswise to them, making them very weak, especially as they get thinner toward the center. Wooden spokes only work if the grain goes radially. That means the circumference and the spokes must be made from different pieces of wood, with perpendicular grain directions. The illustration suggests that the rim of the wheel and the spokes are joined in some way, perhaps with metal braces.

    A wheel made simply from a slice of a tree trunk would not be durable, I think, because it would have no lateral strength; it would break apart along the (circumferential) grain lines. So you need the combination of a rim and spokes. I don’t think you would need any fancy tools to make such a thing. But you couldn’t make it out of a single piece of wood.

    The Flintstones vehicle appears to have front and back rollers made of single logs, which solves the problem of weakness against lateral stresses. I’m not at all convinced that the ‘forked tree’ chassis would work, however. It would split lengthwise in response to vertical stress, which the poor quality of Flintstone-era roadways would undoubtedly exact on such a vehicle.

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