Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

A fresh look at the tools used by Bronze Age metalworkers

Little research had previously been conducted on the tools used by Bronze Age craftspeople to manufacture products. EU-funded researchers studied stone tools used by early metalworkers to understand operational sequences and the factors influencing their technical decision-making.
A fresh look at the tools used by Bronze Age metalworkers
Copper-base metal tools are often considered representative of the toolkit used by Bronze Age metalworkers. However, most of the metalworking implements surviving from that period are made from stone. The circumstances surrounding their discovery (often from settlement or specific workshop sites) can provide relevant contextual information about their original use.

The main aim of the project HARDROCK (Between a rock and a hard place: Context, function and choice of early metalworking tools on Europe’s Atlantic façade) was to better understand the technological and social dimensions of early metalworking in western Europe. Research focused on the toolkit employed by early metalworkers, considering information on the physical and contextual characteristics of implements.

The research team studied all available information on both metal and lithic tools, exploring also the functional relationship between the two. They compiled a full corpus of metalworking tools from a study area comprising the British Isles, Atlantic France and the Iberian Peninsula.

HARDROCK studied materials from the main British and Irish museum collections, as well as the relevant Spanish, Portuguese and French collections. The team also conducted bibliographical research on ethnoarchaeological comparisons, especially from Africa and the Americas. More than 30 museums and collections were visited and over 500 tools were identified and studied over the project’s 2-year duration. This represents the largest corpus of this type of objects anywhere in Europe.

Research results have highlighted the difference between stone tools used by goldsmiths and blacksmiths. Importantly, the study also revealed clear preferences for specific categories of tools as well as in the choice of raw materials for tool manufacture in different parts of the study area.

Project work and findings contribute to an enhanced understanding of past metalworking techniques. This and future such study can provide crucial information on the organization of production processes as well as on the position of craftspeople in past societies.

Related information


Metalworkers, Bronze Age, metalworking, HARDROCK, lithic tools, craft
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