This generally very well produced and long-anticipated tome is a weld, being part conference proceedings and part a re-exploration by Craddock of his 1995 book, 'Early Metal Mining and Production'.
There are 18 chapters of varying lengths. The majority of the conference papers are 7 - 22 pages long, the four Craddock authored or co-authored chapters are 15 - 27 pages and there is an anomalous, 52- page chapter. The shorter chapters are more accessible although the Craddock review chapters read well.
Copper, zinc, tin and their alloys, brass and bronze, dominate the volume although there are two chapters on iron and steel and one on silver. There are no golden chapters although the metal is mentioned quite often. Slightly more than half the chapters deal partly or exclusively with the Bronze Age and all but two chapters are geographically centred on Eurasia.
The conference, entitled 'The Prehistory of Mining and Metallurgy' was in 1995 and so many papers reflect the interests and cause célčbre of that time hence it is not surprising that there are two chapters dedicated to Feinan, one on Kestel and that the Zawar zinc and Welsh/Irish Bronze Age copper mines including Ross Island are discussed. Unexpectedly there is only one lead isotope chapter.
Some chapters have a broad geographical theme: these include an overview of Bronze Age Mining in the British Isles (Timberlake); an illuminating chapter on indigenous Pre-colonial copper-mining in Southern Africa to give a timely reminder that it was not all African iron smelting (Miller); a largely ethnographical chapter on tin placers in the Indian subcontinent (Babu); Mei and Li on Bronze Age copper technology in western China and a longish and scholarly chapter on iron and steel manufacture in ancient Eurasia by Craddock.
On a more focused scale the two Feinan chapters give a temporal overview of 5000 years of mining and smelting (Weisgerber) followed by a more metallurgically focussed chapter by Hauptmann. Yener et al write convincingly on the presence of tin at Kestel/Göltepe, particularly its presence at the industrial site of Göltepe. Having petrographically examined some of the haematite - trace amounts of cassiterite 'ores' from Kestel, I was not expecting to be won over but probably am. The second iron-steel chapter is Feuerbach et al who discuss early Islamic steel from Merv in Central Asia.
Other chapters deal with artefacts/raw materials. These include a resource chapter describing the mineralogy and economic geology of the fahlerz minerals (Ixer and Pattrick), a cautionary chapter on the problems in trying to produce useful environmental geochemistry (Mighall) and a short chapter describing, in detail, copper smelting furnaces from Austria (Herdits). The only precious metal chapter concerns the Phoenician extraction of silver from polymetallic sulphide ores using baryte (Kassianidou), however, both gold and silver smelting are discussed in an excellent review of crucibles by Rehren. Craddock (B) et al write exhaustively on hafted Andean mining hammers from perhaps the most famous porphyry copper mine in the world Chuquicamata and Craddock and Eckstein and Craddock and Zhou respectively expound on brass in antiquity and modern country-style zinc production in China. Although in some chapters the geology is dated and probably unnecessary, overwhelmingly these chapters have been well-written/scientifically edited without too much padding.
However, the 52 page Gales' Bulgarian lead isotope chapter could and should have been edited to half its length, removing the repetitions, many of the data tables and softening the intrusively polemical style, so as to bring the science to the forefront rather than the authors. Fortunately for the reader the 'principle conclusions' at the end of the chapter encapsulate the data and main scientific arguments so all is not lost.
As for the volume itself the production values are excellent, the text is free of typographical errors (I only found one!), the English is free-flowing and there is an abundance of illustrations. Some of the black and white diagrams/maps remain in their original German or Pre-Revolutionary Bulgarian, some have not reproduced as well as could be expected and in Craddock and Zhou it is difficult to match some photographs to their captions - but all these are very minor points. The almost 25 pages of colour-plates in the middle of the book are a huge bonus; the colour is good in both the photomicrographs and the scenic views but it is a pity that 'the characteristic blue-green flame' in Plate 18.13 has not reproduced well-enough in my copy to see it.
The book, at Ł65, is not a whimsical buy. There is more metal manufacture than mining, more Bronze Age than later but it is filled with some splendid, approachable review chapters and good ethnography in exotic locations. Although the delay of almost a decade means that a number of chapters and their concerns are a little dated (and other potential chapters were lost), the addition of the Craddock chapters lift this volume from being a conference proceedings to something less ephemeral (and so perhaps justifies the wait). To my mind this volume makes a better undergraduate/postgraduate text than Craddock's solo 'Early Metal Mining and Production'.
Finally, my favourite bit of text is right at the end (page 285) where the use of old plastic bags/shoes as raw materials in Chinese zinc refining is discussed - a convincing example of the value of ethnography - it's not just site- (sic) seeing but truly illustrates the old geological saw 'the present is the key to the past'. There is a lot of both in this book melded together to give it its strength.
Book review for UK Jounal of Mines and Minerals