Wang, Q., Strekcopytov, S., Roberts, B.W.
& Wilkin, N. (2016). Tin ingots from a probable Bronze Age shipwreck off the coast of Salcombe, Devon: Composition and microstructure. Journal of Archaeological Science 67
Author(s) from Durham
The seabed site of a probable Bronze Age shipwreck off the coast of Salcombe in south-west England was explored between 1977 and 2013. Nearly 400 objects including copper and tin ingots, bronze artefacts/fragments and gold ornaments were found. The Salcombe tin ingots provided a wonderful opportunity for the technical study of prehistoric tin, which has been scarce. The chemical compositions of all the tin ingots were analysed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). Following the compositional analysis, microstructural study was carried out on eight Salcombe ingots selected to cover those with different sizes, shapes and variable impurity levels and also on the two Erme Estuary ingots using metallography and scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM-EDS). An extensive overview of archaeological tin in Europe is also provided.
All the Salcombe tin ingots analysed appeared to be quite pure with little variation in composition between them. Only two samples were found to contain over 0.1% iron and one contains over 0.1% copper. The compositions of the Salcombe tin ingots have been compared to the very few compositional analyses of tin objects found elsewhere such as the Late Bronze Age shipwreck of Uluburun but do not seem to have any connection between them. Further studies including lead and tin isotope analysis are needed to answer the question of provenance of the tin ingots, so as to contribute to the study of metal trading.