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Kazakhstan’s Ore in Bronze Age


Revealing of the Kazakhstan’s Ore and Metal Expansion Paths and Establishment of the Role of Kazakhstan’s Mining and Smelting Centers in the Development of Central Eurasia Culture in Bronze Age by Means of Archeological Goods Identification by the Nuclear

Tech Area / Field

  • OBS-OTH/Other/Other Basic Sciences

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakstan / Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kazakstan, Almaty

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Archaeology, Kazakstan, Almaty

Project summary

Goals of the project are portrait construction of most major ancient ore deposits of Kazakhstan and revealing of Kazakhstan’s mining and smelting centers role in Middle and Fore Asia paleoeconomy in Bronze Era.

Prerequisites and grounding of the project

Kazakhstan is very rich of mineral resources and possesses vast fields of non-ferrous and rare metals. Most of its copper and complex ore fields were in use since very ancient times. The oldest evidences for excavation of the fields are dated by Bronze Age. At that time, approximately in II-III thousand years B.C., at the territory of present Kazakhstan were discovered and set in use hundreds of copper fields where, according to geologists’ data, was extracted more that 10 mln.tons of ore; actually, real figures may be even higher.

Besides copper, such a valuable metal as tin was produced in Western Kazakhstan. Copper and tin made up a conventional tin Bronze that became in II thousand years B.C. a prevailing alloy in the ancient world. Almost everything was made of this metal – ranging from implements and weapon to adornment and trappings. Western Kazakhstan is actually the only prominent ore source for this metal in all span of Eurasia steppe. Other sources are beyond its boundaries in Transbaikalia, Ore Mountains (at the boundary of Czechia and Germany) and Middle Asia.

In the middle of II thousand B.C. Kazakhstan was populated by tribes of so-called andron culture. Andron monuments has spread over vast territories from Yenisei in the East to the Urals in the West and from Siberian taiga in the North to foothills of Tien-Shan and Pamirs in the South. Androns were mainly cattle breeders and metallurgist since almost in each their settlement are found remnants of copper-smelting production. At the same time recent paleodemographic investigations showed that it that period in main copper-producing regions of Central and Northern Kazakhstan in all known settlements of ancient metallurgists lived at a time not more than 7,000 people. Amount of archaeological findings of metal goods is not considerable here what does not correspond to tremendous ore production. Therefore internal metal market was quite limited and ancient mining and smelting production in Kazakhstan should have worked “for export” mainly.

Formation and development of civilizations in Fore Asia in close vicinity of Southern Kazakhstan is associated with the same historical period. So, from the IV thousand years B.C. to 224 A.D. in this region changed cultures of ancient Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, Persian, Parthian realms. Each of these civilizations has its particular loftiness and importance and left for descendants numerous art pieces of gold, Bronze and iron.

According to written sources, tin and copper was delivered to Mesopotamia from the city of Ashshur at Tigris river where, in turn, it appeared from the East or North-East. Present day assumption is that the metal originated from Central Asian fields Karnab, Mushiston and others. But analyzing historical chronology one can make an assumption that ancient ore fields of Eastern and Northern Kazakhstan were also involved into metal provision of boomingly developing civilizations of Fore Asia. There is a possibility that these particular fields made the largest contribution into supply of Middle and Fore Asia with copper, tin, Bronze and gold as well as goods of these materials. Archaeologically this assumption is indirectly supported by high similarity found between some forms of metal goods and ceramics found in Middle Asia and Kazakhstan.

If the supposition is true, it opens new horizons in our understanding of historic processes in Kazakhstan, Middle and Fore Asia in the Bronze Age. Therefore, there is a possibility to obtain extremely important archaeological information of great importance for the human culture and science.

In the framework of the project it is supposed to carry out the following works:

  • Study of last years published data and selective field survey of ancient mining and smelting industry monuments (ancient mines at copper and tin deposits and metallurgist settlements) in Kazakhstan territory and, as far as possible, other Central Asia countries.
  • Collection and data informational processing pertinent to metal goods of the Bronze Age of Kazakhstan and regions adjacent to Kazakhstan.
  • Ores, slag and metal goods composition determination using the XRF, PIXE, RBS, ICP MS and NAA methods.
  • Mineralogical and petrographic descriptions of ore, flux and intermediate product of metallurgical industry samples.
  • Radiocarbon analysis of coal, wood and bone remains samples in order to determine the monument ages.
  • Informational and statistical processing of the obtained data, revealing relations between mining and smelting centers and determination of the ancient paths of Kazakhstan’s ores and metals expansion.
  • Database development.

Project answers goals and objectives of ICTS, because:
  • More 60% of personal participating in the project carrying out is scientists and engineers of the Institute of Nuclear Physics NNC RK who were engaged before in elaboration and production of weapons.
  • Integration of nuclear scientists into the archaeological science will be realized.
  • New data of ores and metals transportation paths from the mining and extractive regions of Kazakhstan to Middle and Fore Asia will be obtained in the framework of the project carrying out.
  • New historical and archaeological knowledge of traditions and interference of nationality cultures living in Kazakhstan, Middle and Fore Asia within the Bronze Age will be obtained.


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