The first polluted river? Repeated copper contamination of fluvial sediments associated with Late Neolithic human activity in southern Jordan
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The roots of pyrometallurgy are obscure. This paper explores one possible precursor, in the Faynan Orefield in southern Jordan. There, at approximately 7000cal. BP, banks of a near-perennial meandering stream (today represented by complex overbank wetland and anthropogenic deposits) were contaminated repeatedly by copper emitted by human activities. Variations in the distribution of copper in this sequence are not readily explained in other ways, although the precise mechanism of contamination remains unclear. The degree of copper enhancement was up to an order of magnitude greater than that measured in Pleistocene fluvial and paludal sediments, in contemporary or slightly older Holocene stream and pond deposits, and in the adjacent modern wadi braidplain. Lead is less enhanced, more variable, and appears to have been less influenced by contemporaneous human activities at this location. Pyrometallurgy in this region may have appeared as a byproduct of the activity practised on the stream-bank in the Wadi Faynan ~7000years ago.