The Rise of Metallurgy in Eurasia

The Rise of Metallurgy in Eurasia

Evolution, Organisation and Consumption of Early Metal in the Balkans

There is controversy over the beginnings of extractive metallurgy, i.e. the extraction of metals from ores, in Eurasia. For many years the prevalent view was that metallurgy developed in the Near East and spread out from there, but over time there has been more and more evidence to suggest that it is more likely to have emerged independently in different regions of Eurasia.

The Balkan region plays a particularly important role in this theory of multiregional development. In the context of the Vinča culture, which was based here between 5300 BC and 4600 BC, there was a veritable “boom” in the production of heavy copper items, impressively illustrated by the find of 45 massive copper axes, chisels and bracelets in the settlement of Pločnik. Furthermore, the Rudna Glava mine, also from the Vinča period, is the oldest copper ore mine in Europe. So far, however, the places where the actual metal production and processing occurred have remained largely unknown.
Since 2012 a UCL-based project, “The Rise of Metallurgy in Eurasia: Evolution, Organisation and Consumption of Early Metal in the Balkans”, has tackled this desideratum. The Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum has been a collaborative partner in this project since 2013. Within the framework of this project, the different steps in copper production and use in Vinča times are to be examined and reconstructed using data from various find sites – in Pločnik, Belovode and Jarmovac.
The activities of the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum will be related to the examination of prehistoric traces of mining at the Jarmovac find site near the locality of Priboj na Limu in western Serbia. These were discovered and partially excavated back in 2003 by Savo Derikonjić from the Priboj museum of local history. Finds of grooved and indented hammerstones (Rillenschlägel and Kerbschlägel), and a few fragments of ceramics from the Vinča period, show that what we have here is probably another mine from this early copper-producing culture. Investigating this mine will offer detailed insights into the techniques used for this early ore extraction.

Project manager

Prof. Dr. Thomas Stöllner

Responsible body





Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum

Ruhr-Universität Bochum


2013 - 2014