Bars, coins and scrap: Seaborne connections and urbanising metals

Lecture by Assistant Professor Thomas Birch (UrbNet, Aarhus University).

2017.05.29 | Christina Levisen

Date Tue 06 Jun
Time 19:00 20:00
Location The Danish Institute at Athens (DIA), Herefondos 14, Athens, Greece

Seaborne metals (bars, ingots, coins and scrap) from the three case studies discussed in the lecture (Photo: Thomas Birch).


Metals play an important role in forming distant connections and developing settlements. They often travel along seaborne networks destined for constructing new buildings, monetary circulation and everyday items life. The lecture brings together three different case studies to highlight the catalysing nature of metals and how intimately they are associated with urbanism. The first case study reviews the movement of silver in the western Mediterranean during classical antiquity, necessary for coinage and flourishing cities. The second case study reconstructs the journey of ‘voyage iron’ and other metal ingots from early modern Europe, placing them in their global context. The third study reveals the importance of recycling metals in Iceland during the Viking period, a land with no native metal production other than iron. This disparate assortment of examples aims to highlight the importance of metals in forming maritime networks and shaping urban life.

Lecture/talk, History and archaeology