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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/236

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Gudeah, a king who belongs to the most ancient age of which relics have yet been found in Mesopotamia—M. Oppert attributing to him an antiquity of four thousand years b. c. We are thus carried back to extremely remote times of metallurgical history. The figurine is covered with a thick, green patina, below which is a red layer, formed by the oxidation of the metal in the greater part of its thickness. Then comes a red metallic nucleus, having the appearance and tenacity of copper. It is the last remainder of the primitive metal, which has been progressively destroyed by natural actions. I have analyzed these different parts. The superficial green patina is a mixture of oxide of copper and a hydrated oxychloride of copper, the latter compound being known by mineralogists as atakamite. It is formed by the action on the metal of brackish waters, with which the figurine had been in contact, through the course of ages. The middle layer is a nearly pure protoxide of copper, free from notable quantities of tin, antimony, lead, or any similar metal. It results from a slow alteration of metallic copper. The nucleus was pure metallic copper.

The absence of any other metal than copper in this figurine deserves to be noticed. Objects of this kind are usually made with bronze, an alloy of tin and copper which is harder and more easily worked. The absence of tin from the Tello copper has a peculiar historical significance. Tin is much less diffused over the surface of the earth than copper, and its transportation has always been the object of a special commerce, in ancient days as well as in ours. In Asia, in particular, there had not till very lately been any deposits of tin found in any abundance except those of the Sunda Islands and the southern provinces of China. The transportation of this tin to Western Asia was formerly carried on by sea, to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, by long and arduous voyages; and it was carried thence to the coasts of the Mediterranean, where it came in competition with the tin of the British Isles which had been brought across Gaul, and with the less abundant deposits of Central Gaul, and, perhaps, also of Saxony and Bohemia. Voyages so long and arduous, and systems of navigation so difficult could not have been established till after many centuries of civilization. The Phœnicians, who had come from the borders of the Persian Gulf to those of the Mediterranean, seem to have been the first promoters of this navigation.

But I have recently become cognizant with two documents, which tend to fix a less distant origin for the tin of the bronzes of Assyria and Egypt. According to a note published by M. G. Bapst, a Russian traveler, M. Ogorodnikoff, was informed by the inhabitants of Meshed that there were at one hundred and twenty kilometres from that city, and at various places in Khorassan, mines of tin now worked. These statements should, however, be received with caution, on account of the uncertain quality of the oral declarations of Tartars. But it is a remarkable fact that they agree to some extent with a passage