From Cornwall to Corinth: Was there a ‘tin road’ across Europe 2,500 years ago?






From Cornwall to Corinth: Was there a ‘tin road’ across Europe 2,500 years ago?

By Hanni Schwab

UNESCO Courier (1984)

Introduction: During the sixth century BC the Greeks used tin from Cornwall for making bronzes. This precious metal was transported by boat along the Atlantic coast, through the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Mediterranean to Greece. Around the middle of the sixth century Carthage became an important sea power, and in 540 concluded a treaty with the Etruscans against the Greeks who were then the dominant Mediterranean power. In 535 the Greeks were defeated at the Battle of Alalia and lost control of the Mediterranean. They could no longer even reach their colony of Massalia (Marseilles) and were compelled to find a new overland route across the Alps to transport their tin from England. As far as possible they used inland waterways, rivers and lakes, and the points where their wagons were transshipped were the most critical stages in the journey.



It may seem an exaggeration to describe as a “tin route” a line on the map of Europe of which only a few scattered points can be traced. But these points, which represent the sites of discoveries–in France, Mont Lassois and Vix, Bragny-sur-Saone, the fortified camp at Salins-les-Bains; Chatillon-sur-Glane in Switzerland–are so important and have so many features in common that they can be related to one another. Archaeological finds dating from the late sixth and the early fifth century BC which have been unearthed along the route include objects


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