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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 11, March 12, 2006, Article 9

STUDY EXPLORES TRUE ECONOMIC VALUE OF ROMAN SILVER COINS

Arthur Shippee forwarded a link from the Explorator newsletter
about a new study of Roman silver coins:

"Dr Matthew Ponting, from the University’s School of Archaeology,
Classics and Egyptology, is investigating the chemical composition
of the coins to further understanding of how and where they were
made. Dr Ponting believes that analysis of the coins will also
shed more light on the political and economic issues of the Roman
Empire."

"Dr Ponting said: “For the first time we are able to use a
combination of chemical and isotopic analysis on these coins.
Chemical analysis will give useful trace element ‘finger prints’
telling us about the type of ores exploited and the technology
used in smelting and refining the metal.”

The team is analysing the coins by drilling a small hole in
their outer edge to get beneath the treated surface and investigate
their different layers.

Dr Ponting added: “By measuring the isotopes of lead in the coins
it is often possible to ascertain where that metal came from. This
is done by comparing the isotopic 'signature’ of the silver coin,
with isotopic ‘signatures’ of known Roman silver mining regions.
In this way I hope to be able to investigate where Rome was getting
its silver from.” "

"Dr Ponting said: “In the 1970s a study documented the silver
contents of Roman Imperial silver coins by analysing their surface.
Until recently this was the principal reference for economic
historians on the monetary policies of the Roman Empire.

“During the 1990s, however, historians realised that many Roman
silver coins were deliberately treated to remove some of the copper
from their surface, giving impure coins the appearance of being
pure and disguising the debasement of the currency. Analysis of
the coins’ surface had therefore overestimated their silver content.”

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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