Accessibility navigation

Form and flow: the 'karmic cycle' of copper

Bray, P., Cuénod, A., Gosden, C., Hommel, P., Liu, R. and Pollard, A. M. (2015) Form and flow: the 'karmic cycle' of copper. Journal of Archaeological Science, 56. pp. 202-209. ISSN 0305-4403

Full text not archived in this repository.

It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2014.12.013


The analysis and interpretation of the chemical composition of copper-alloys is one of the longest ongoing research projects within archaeological science. Beginning in the late 18th century these data have been consistently used to try and link objects with distinct metal sources. This paper argues the traditional provenance model for copper alloys is fatally flawed. Through pursuing a ‘pure’ source signal, chemical and isotopic datasets have been removed from their context and history. Social engagement with metal through processes such as reuse, recycling, and curation were rarely considered important by analysts. We offer an alternative model that unites the available legacy scientific datasets with process-metallurgy, archaeological and geographical context, and new conceptual approaches. Rather than provenance, we offer an empirical model of metal flow. Here objects are seen as snapshots of a wider metal stream; their final scientific characterisation including echoes of their previous forms and contexts. Through a series of case studies we highlight how the reinterpretation of existing datasets can disentangle the complex life histories of units of copper.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:84730

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation