The innovation of iron production is often considered one of the greatest technological advances in human history. A reliable provenancing method for iron is instrumental for the reconstruction of economic, social and geo-political aspects of iron production and use in antiquity. Although the potential of osmium isotopes analysis for this purpose has been previously suggested, here we present for the first time the results of osmium isotope analysis of ores, bloom and metal obtained from a set of systematic, bloomery iron-smelting experiments, utilizing selected ores from the Southern Levant. The results show that the 187Os/188Os ratio is preserved from ore to metal, with no isotopic fractionation. In addition, enrichment/depletion of osmium content was observed in the transition from ore to metal and from ore to slag. This observation has potential significance for our ability to differentiate between the various processes and sheds light on the suitability of various production remains for this method, which emerges as a robust and promising tool for the provenancing of archaeological ferrous metals.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
I hereby state that we received the following fund support for this project: Israel Science Foundation, ISF grant no, 1047/17 to A.E. B. https://www.isf.org.il/#/ Postdoc fellowship to I. S is also supported by the ISF funding and Ariel University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Mr. Lee Sauder is employed by his own company Germinal Ironworks. Germinal Ironworks did not have any role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific role of this author is articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.” We thank Vanessa Workman, Lina María Campos Quintero and Maria Eniukhina for their help in smelting experiments, sampling and for documentation and photography during experiments, and Sveta Matskevich for map reproduction. Ores were surveyed and selected for analysis in collaboration with Yigal Erel and Yoav Avni. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for their comments.
© 2020 Brauns et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.