Ignacio Montero-Ruiz/María Jesús Rodríguez de la Esperanza:
Prehistoric Copper Mining in Spain
A Overview of Research
Copper ore deposits are widely distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula. A geologically complex history has allowed the formation of many deposits, some of which are worked to the present day. Many other small deposits could have been used by prehistoric people because they were accessible and easy to identify. However, information about prehistoric mining is scarce, and in recent years there has been little research on the subject. Grooved stone hammers are in most cases the only archaeological record available to date the mines, but unfortunately they are not a good enough chronological reference. An accurate archaeological context dates them mainly to the Middle and Late Bronze Age. Radiocarbon dates are only available for a small number of mines, the oldest being El Aramo and El Milagro in northern Spain. These mines were worked in the second half of the 3rd millennium BC.
The lack of sufficient fieldwork obliges us to use indirect evidence based on analytical methods to complete the picture of prehistoric mining. Trace element analysis is not the best way to prove where metals came from, but in some cases it offers good information to support the relationship with certain copper resources. Lead isotope analysis is still in its infancy in the Iberian Peninsula but the first results show a very complex situation that must be interpreted with caution.