New insights on Late Bronze Age Cu-metallurgy from Coles de Samuel hoard (Central Portugal): a combined multi-analytical approach

Carlo Bottaini*, Raquel Vilaça, Nick Schiavon, José Mirão, António Candeias, Rui Bordalo, Giovanni Paternoster, Ignacio Montero-Ruiz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The hoard from Coles de Samuel is one of the largest Cu-based metal collections from the Late Bronze Age (LBA) (13th-8th centuries BC) ever found in Central Portugal, consisting of 18 artefacts which typologically display a strong regional identity. In the present study, an integrated multi-analytical approach combining Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (EDXRF) analysis, Optical Microscopy (OM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) has been used to characterise the artefacts both from a chemical and microstructural point of view with the aim to unravel their elemental composition and technological features.Results show that all artefacts are made of binary bronze (Cu-Sn) alloys, with a Sn content in the range of 8.7 ± 0.9 and 13.0 ± 1.0 wt%, with minor elements (Pb, As and Fe) never exceeding 1.1 wt% in total. The microstructure of the vast majority of the metal objects (13 out of 18) shows the presence of equiaxial α-copper grains with annealing twins and slip bands suggesting that, in the manufacturing process, they were subjected to forging plus annealing cycles. The remains of the objects present an as-cast microstructure constituted by dendritic structures, suggesting that metals did not suffer any thermo-mechanical operation after being removed from the mould. Pb, Ag and Au-rich globules together with Cu-S and unalloyed Cu-inclusions have been observed as well, resulting from impurities from ores.The typological characterisation of these metals and their archaeometallurgical data are consistent with an indigenous LBA Iberian metallurgical production supporting the hypothesis of a regional/local production and use of the artefacts from Coles de Samuel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-357
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bronze alloys
  • Central Portugal
  • Late Bronze Age
  • Metal hoards
  • Optical microscopy


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