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Interdisciplinary Data Base (archaeology/archeometry) for carecterisation of non funarary deposits of metal artefacs (France, end of 4th millenium-end of 1st century BC). – DÉPOMÉTAL


Interdisciplinary Data Base (archeology / Archaeometry) for the characterization of non Funeral Hoards Metal (France, late fourth millennium-late first century BC.)

The importance of non-funerary deposits metal component

The importance of metallurgy for European prehistory is expressed in the words chosen for periodize : Chalcolithic , Bronze Ages and Iron. In France, the first copper objects were produced at the end of the fourth millennium and the Iron Age ends at the end of the first century BC. Metal products have often then been buried or submerged, and never recovered. This practice of funerary hoards, very irregular in time and space, provides a corpus of crucial importance, because these hoards include objects in gold, copper, bronze, silver and iron, very far the most numerous , the most prestigious and the most technically and artistically developed among this period. Their knowledge is therefore crucial to understand the companies that produced and used.<br />The project objective is to develop, enhance, harmonize, valuing, documenting, processing, analyzing, in a simple, flexible and open to consultation form, querying and updating via the Internet, an interdisciplinary data base ( archeology / Archaeometry ) non-funerary hoards with metal component discovered in France for the period 3200-25 BC. BC partial data bases were conducted for several years under the direction of the project leader within academic work, bringing the total a few thousand places of discovery and tens of thousands of objects. The objective now is : 1) to collect, standardize, normalize ; 2 ) add the results of analyzes of elemental composition in a usable form and modeled statistically and spatially ; 3) to make this database a common methodological tool for researchers involved in the program for the duration of the program and beyond a basic client / server to be paid, eventually, to TGE ADONIS data.

The project is innovative in its three parts. It transcends traditional divisions by periods, regions, materials, and allows the kind of study critical cultural practice plans to documentary and historical time taking into account the constantly changing and diverse geological settings, geomorphological, bioclimatic and cultural therefore beyond simplistic determinism. It aims to collect data, especially metallic elemental composition, which have never been, which prohibits any attempt to present synthesis and broad interpretation, despite the great progress in recent years in study of the internal structure of base metals copper and iron base. It provides, finally, the creation of a web mapping interface with multiple options: spatial querying the database (site selection card and inside a predefined geographical object); obtaining query results in tabular and cartographic forms, with exports in tabular format, graphics and GIS data; consultation via a direct connection with open source GIS software; development of data analysis directly in the web interface or plug-ins modules. A summary of this first operation of the database will be published at the end of this three-year program.

Despite a significant administrative delay in the laboratory trajectories, the work of developing the database has progressed satisfactorily using equipment provided by the laboratories. All databases were then merged into a single table (General Base) which contains nearly 12,000 records.

The next step is to integrate database information on the metallurgical composition and inclusions determined on analyzed objects. This requires pretreatment of many chemical elements in question. The proposed solution consists of a table of raw data adjusted by a normalization module based on detection limits and of relating to each method error margins.


The importance of metallurgy for later European prehistory is clearly expressed in the terms chosen for periodisation : Chalcolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages. In France, the earliest copper artifacts were produced in the late 4th millennium, while the Iron Age lasts until the end of the 1st century BC. During the whole period, metal artifacts were often buried or immersed, and never retrieved. This practice of non funerary deposit, irregular in time and space, provides archaeology with a corpus of crucial importance, as the deposits contain gold, copper, bronze, silver and iron artifacts that are by far the most numerous, the most prestigious and the most technically and artistically elaborate of the time. Their study is thus vital for understanding the societies that produced and used them, not only from the economic viewpoint, but also in political and ideological terms.
The aim of the project is to create and develop an online interdisciplinary database of non funerary deposits of metal artifacts in France for the period 3200 to 25 BC, combining archaeological and archaeometric information, in a form that is simple, flexible and open to consultation, interrogation and updating. A number of partial databases have been made in recent years in the course of university research under the direction of the project’s initiator, representing a total of several thousand sites and tens of thousands of artifacts. The present aim is 1) to combine and harmonize them ; 2) to add the results of metal composition analyses in a form that can be used for statistical and spatial modelling ; 3) to make this methodological tool available to the researchers working on the project for its duration and then to set up a client/server database which can eventually be handed over to TGE ADONIS.
These three constituents of the project are all innovative. By transcending traditional divisions into phases, regions and materials, the project enables the study of a practice which is of fundamental historical importance, by taking into account the varied and changing geological, geomorphological, bioclimatic and cultural contexts, thus avoiding simple determinism. The project will bring together data, in particular by integrating metal composition analyses, in a manner that has not previously been attempted, despite recent progress in research into the internal structure of copper and iron containing metals, thus opening the way for broader synthesis and interpretation. Lastly, the project will create a webmapping interface with multiple possibilities : spatial interrogation of the database (selection of sites through the map and within a predefined geographical feature) ; presentation of results in table or cartographic form, exportable in graphic, table or SIG format ; consultation via a direct connection by open source SIG software ; development of data analysis modules, directly on the web interface or through plug-ins. An overview of results of this first exploitation of the database will be published at the end of the three-year project.

Project coordination

Patrice BRUN (UMR 7041 ArScAn) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 252,499 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2013 - 36 Months

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