Early metallurgy in Sardinia: characterizing the evidence from Su Coddu

  • Kyle P. FreundEmail author
  • Silvia Amicone
  • Christoph Berthold
  • Robert H. Tykot
  • Umberto Veronesi
  • Maria Rosaria Manunza
Original Paper


This paper contextualizes analyses of a collection of metal artifacts and ostensible metallurgical slag from the prehistoric settlement of Su Coddu in south-central Sardinia (ca. 3400–2850 BCE). To characterize the types of metals and associated alloys utilized by the earliest residents of Su Coddu, two pins and an unshaped lump of unknown composition were analyzed using portable XRF spectrometry. In addition to metal artifacts, a large quantity of putative slag was discovered at the site that is consistently cited as the earliest evidence of in situ smelting in prehistoric Sardinia. To reconstruct firing temperatures and characterize mineral phases, four samples of the overfired material were selected for thin section petrography and powder XRD analysis. The results of this study indicate that the two pins were made of copper while the unshaped lump was composed of pure lead, making it the earliest lead-based artifact on Sardinia. XRD and petrographic analyses of the fired “slags” reveal that these samples are unrelated to metallurgical smelting and are likely burnt wall coatings whose mineralogical phases correspond with unfired plasters also recovered from the site. These results in combination contribute towards understanding early metallurgical practices in Sardinia and are relevant in reconstructing the events that have shaped the life history of Su Coddu.


Sardinia Neolithic Archaeometallurgy Powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) Thin section petrography Portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometry 



We gratefully acknowledge the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici per le Province di Cagliari e Oristano and specifically Dott. Fausto Martino and Dott.ssa Gianfranca Salis for assistance in obtaining permission to export artifacts to Germany for analysis. S.A. and C.B. would also like to acknowledge the Excellence Initiative of the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen and the Ministry for Science, Research, and Art of Baden-Württemberg for the generous support they provided to this research. We would also like to thank Lars Heinze for his help in editing several of the figures.

Author Contributions.

Kyle Freund: conceptualization, funding acquisition, investigation, methodology, project administration, pXRF analysis, writing (original draft); Silvia Amicone: conceptualization, investigation, methodology, thin section petrography, writing (petrography and XRD methods and analysis), reviewing and editing the original draft; Christoph Berthold: funding acquisition, methodology, XRD analysis, reviewing and editing the original draft; Umberto Veronesi: SEM-EDX analysis, reviewing and editing the original draft; Robert H. Tykot: methodology, pXRF equipment and calibration; reviewing and editing the original draft; Maria Rosaria Manunza: conceptualization, sampling, excavation, reviewing and editing the original draft.

Supplementary material

12520_2019_928_MOESM1_ESM.docx (415 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 414 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyle P. Freund
    • 1
    Email author
  • Silvia Amicone
    • 2
    • 3
  • Christoph Berthold
    • 2
  • Robert H. Tykot
    • 4
  • Umberto Veronesi
    • 3
  • Maria Rosaria Manunza
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyIndian River State CollegeFort PierceUSA
  2. 2.Competence Center Archaeometry - Baden-WuerttembergUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonEngland
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  5. 5.Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici per le Province di Cagliari e OristanoCagliariItaly

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