Tin sources and trade in ancient times
Tin is an essential metal in the creation of tin bronzes and its acquisition was an important part of ancient cultures from the Bronze Age onwards. Its use began in the Near East and the Balkans around 3000 BC. Tin is a relatively rare element in the Earth's crust, with about 2 parts per million (ppm), compared to iron with 50,000 ppm, copper with 70 ppm, lead with 16 ppm, arsenic with 5 ppm, silver with 0.1 ppm, and gold with 0.005 ppm (Valera & Valera 2003, p. 10). Ancient sources of tin were therefore rare, and the metal usually had to be traded over very long distances to meet demand in areas which lacked tin deposits.Known sources of tin exploited in ancient times include: the southeastern tin belt running from Yunnan in China to the Malay Peninsula, Devon and Cornwall in England, Brittany in France, the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Central and Southern Africa (Wertime 1979, p. 1; Muhly 1979). Other minor sources of tin have been suggested in Iran, Syria, and Egypt, but the archaeological evidence is inconclusive.