Chalcolithic river environment pollution discovered in Jordan

Researchers discovered evidence for industrial pollution in Jordan that originated 7000 years ago due to early stages of developing metallurgy in the period of transition from Late Neolithic to Chalcolithic.

Excavations at Wadi Faynan (by Barqa Landscape Project)
Excavations at Wadi Faynan (by Barqa Landscape Project)

This period, known as the Chalcolithic or Copper Age, is a transitional period between the late Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age, when humans began moving from making tools out of stones to making tools out of metal experimenting with fire, experimenting with pottery and experimenting with copper ores, and all three of these components are part of the early production of copper metals from ores. The archaeologists examined an area of now-dry riverbed in the Wadi Faynan region of southern Jordan. According to the experts this region is home to the world’s first industrial revolution which also resulted in environmental changes. Now, archaeologists found evidence of early pollution caused by the combustion of copper.

Excavations at Wadi Faynan (by Barqa Landscape Project)
Excavations at Wadi Faynan (by Barqa Landscape Project)

People created first copper at this time by combining charcoal and the blue-green copper ore, which found in abundance in this area, in pottery crucibles or vessels. The mixture was then heated  over a fire. The process was time-consuming and labour-intensive and it took thousands of years before copper became a central part of human societies. As the communities grew larger and settlements covered wider areas people also built mines, then large smelting furnaces and workshops. Copper mining and production must have led to widespread health problems in ancient populations. Infertility, malformations and premature death would have been some of the effects.

(after Eurekalert! & Barqa Landscape Project)

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