Sheffield Aegean Round Table List

Precious circuits: changing social, economic, cultural and symbolic values of metals

17th Annual Round Table, 1st – 3rd April 2016 2016
Organized by: Sue Sherratt and Toby C. Wilkinson

It is now over 15 years since the publication of ‘Metals make the world go round’, a seminal overview of the role of metals and metal circulation in Bronze Age Europe but with implications for the Aegean, for wider Eurasia and for other periods. The contributors to that volume outlined a set of diverse frameworks for understanding metals in the ancient world. For the prehistoric Aegean, research effort on ancient metals has mainly been directed toward the arrangement of objects into typologies, sometimes competitive chronologies of ‘first’ use, scientific analyses (trace elements and provenance studies) devoted to sourcing and constitution, and more recently the circumstances and contexts of various aspects of metal production (a number of these topics covered in Sheffield Studies in Aegean Archaeology 7). However, much of this has been dominated by questions surrounding copper and copper alloys, with less consideration given to other metals, such as gold, silver, tin, nickel, arsenic and iron, and the relationships between different metals and non-metallic materials.

This Round Table aims to open discussion on the cultural part played by the full spectrum of metals in use from the Neolithic to the Early Iron Age in the Aegean, and to place them in their wider Afro-Eurasian context. The emphasis will be on the divergent uses and roles of different metals, the interrelationship of these roles and the changing economic, social, cultural and symbolic values which may have been accorded to them at different times and in different places by producers and consumers. Metals are not simply materials for making artefacts, but agents which did indeed ‘make the world go round’ in various ways, including: their use in display and circulation as 'prestige' artefacts; their role in the development of metrology and in the accumulation of wealth and capital; their relative economic, social, cultural or symbolic values in different societies; the part they played in the spread of wider economic systems; and the economic and cultural integration of increasingly wide areas of Afro-Eurasia. The aim is not only to contemplate the properties of different metals and the various issues concerning their frequent under-representation in the archaeological record, but also to build up comparative and diachronic perspectives which will offer insights into their important roles in wider cultural and historical changes over a period of several millennia.


Sheffield University Sheffield Centre for Aegean Archaeology is a Research Centre in the Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield.

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