Anthropogenic impact and lead pollution throughout the Holocene in Southern Iberia

A. García-Alix, F. J. Jimenez-Espejo, J. A. Lozano, G. Jiménez-Moreno, F. Martinez-Ruiz, L. García Sanjuán, G. Aranda Jiménez, E. García Alfonso, G. Ruiz-Puertas, R. Scott Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Present day lead pollution is an environmental hazard of global proportions. A correct determination of natural lead levels is very important in order to evaluate anthropogenic lead contributions. In this paper, the anthropogenic signature of early metallurgy in Southern Iberia during the Holocene, more specifically during the Late Prehistory, was assessed by mean of a multiproxy approach: comparison of atmospheric lead pollution, fire regimes, deforestation, mass sediment transport, and archeological data. Although the onset of metallurgy in Southern Iberia is a matter of controversy, here we show the oldest lead pollution record from Western Europe in a continuous paleoenvironmental sequence, which suggests clear lead pollution caused by metallurgical activities since ~3900 cal BP (Early Bronze Age). This lead pollution was especially important during Late Bronze and Early Iron ages. At the same time, since ~4000 cal BP, an increase in fire activity is observed in this area, which is also coupled with deforestation and increased erosion rates. This study also shows that the lead pollution record locally reached near present-day values many times in the past, suggesting intensive use and manipulation of lead during those periods in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-460
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 1 2013


  • Anthropogenic environmental impact
  • Late Prehistory
  • Lead pollution
  • Metallurgy
  • Southern Iberia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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