Amber in prehistoric Iberia: New data and a review
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AuthorMurillo-Barroso, Mercedes; Peñalver, Enrique; Bueno, Primitiva; Barroso, Rosa; Balbín, Rodrigo de; Martinón Torres, Marcos
Murillo-Barroso M, Peñalver E, Bueno P, Barroso R, de BalbõÂn R, MartinoÂn-TorresM (2018) Amber in prehistoric Iberia: New data and a review. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0202235
SponsorshipThis work was supported by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission under a Marie Curie Intra- European Fellowship at UCL Institute of Archaeology (London, UK); by the University of Granada under the programme CaptacioÂn de Talento UGRFellows; by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness under the R&D projects: Metal y AÂ mbar: Modelos de CirculacioÂn de Materias Primas en la Prehistoria Reciente de la Peninsula IbeÂrica (HAR2017-82685-R) and the project CRE: Global bioevent of massive resin production at the initial diversification of modern forest ecosystems, funded by the Spanish AEI/FEDER, UE Grant CGL2017-84419.
Provenancing exotic raw materials and reconstructing the nature and routes of exchange is a major concern of prehistoric archaeology. Amber has long been recognised as a key commodity of prehistoric exchange networks in Europe. However, most science-based studies so far have been localised and based on few samples, hence making it difficult to observe broad geographic and chronological trends. This paper concentrates on the nature, distribution and circulation of amber in prehistoric Iberia. We present new standardised FTIR analyses of 22 archaeological and geological samples from a large number of contexts across Iberia, as well as a wide scale review of all the legacy data available. On the basis of a considerable body of data, we can confirm the use of local amber resources in the Northern area of the Iberian Peninsula from the Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age; we push back the arrival of Sicilian amber to at least the 4th Millennium BC, and we trace the appearance of Baltic amber since the last quarter of the 2nd Millennium BC, progressively replacing Sicilian simetite. Integrating these data with other bodies of archaeological information, we suggest that the arrival of Baltic amber was part of broader Mediterranean exchange networks, and not necessarily the result of direct trade with the North. From a methodological perspective, thanks to the analyses carried out on both the vitreous core and the weathered surfaces of objects made of Sicilian simetite, we define the characteristic FTIR bands that allow the identification of Sicilian amber even in highly deteriorated archaeological samples.