Juri I. Kolev/Jennifer Garner:
The Mining and Smelting Centre of the Bronze Age in Michailo-Ovsânka on the Middle Volga. The First Research Results and Questions
The archaeological sites of prehistoric mining possess especial significance for research into bronze metallurgy. The prehistoric mining sites provide not only knowledge about mining and smelting in the bronze age, but also important indications for reconstructing the entire course of production. Furthermore, the investigation of mining settlements can provide new information for solving the problem of the social status of miners in prehistoric society and their role in organizing the extraction of metals.
Regrettably, up until now, opportunities for researching the work of smelting proper, particularly on the East European steppes, were restricted. In research on the archaeology of the late bronze age in Eastern Europe, this situation is gradually changing with investigations of such key mining regions as Kargaly in the Urals and the Bachmut mines in the Donetsk basin. As a result, a reconstruction has emerged of the functioning of the two production zones, Don-Donetsk and Volga-Urals, within Balkan burial culture (Srubnaja) which were supplied with metals from the metallurgy centre of Donetsk and Kargaly.
From this perspective, the prehistoric mining region of Michailo-Ovsânka situated in the middle Volga region in the area adjacent to the southern Urals is particularly illuminating. In contrast to already known sites of the same kind, the mining region of Michailo-Ovsânka was operated for a single phase in the late bronze age. Thereafter, extraction was never resumed here. The finds in the mines as well as the cultural deposits associated with the exploitation and subsistence of miners were closed off by natural processes. Research into the mining region of Michailo-Ovsânka enables numerous problems concerning the system of mining and smelting in the bronze age to be investigated.