24 of 234 days: Zinc-Copper Alloys

Bronze is Tin and Copper, Brass is Zinc and Copper. The latter is far harder to produce than the former. The foundational work on Brass in the ancient world is Craddock 1978. I’m starting here and then working forward in scholarship. The main issues are obtaining zinc and then ensuring it doesn’t burn off when the alloy is made.

Craddock didn’t know exactly where or how the technology enters the ancient world or precisely the techniques used but he makes a good case that the techniques that end up being used by the Roman might have been v similar to those used in India (see diagram below)

The question is how early was brass commonly in use, certainly by the first early century CE. It is known to Plato and other Classical writers but is considered more precious than silver because of its gold color. Even in the Roman world it was valued for this property

Notice the brass detail on this bronze lamp stand from Pompeii in the BM.

Craddock says there are Etruscan figurines of Brass that must be genuine because of style.

But I am more skeptical. I couldn’t find this statue in the BM collection (I didn’t look as hard as I could have.) But I did find another fake brass with the curator’s notes from 1990 saying with certitude that Brass wasn’t used by Etruscans in this period.

Why do I care? Well because of zinc readings from surface analyses of aes grave. Could the material be ancient? I’m leaning very strongly no, but this is just the beginning of my thinking on the matter, don’t base any arguments on this yet.

One more brass object that is suspected of being a modern imitation:

Suffice to say I leave notes in the trays when I find high zinc readings.

I got two pieces of exciting news today, I can’t share yet but both were just what I needed to hear.


  • further edits/tweaks – then send off
  • Zoom on back to the 80s
  • Rutgers follow up
  • Shift Feb flights
  • Submit receipts
  • Update Rome contacts on Feb
  • April NYC event follow up email on state of logistics
  • Email Schaefer

Not Today (but maybe tomorrow, or the day after)

  • collect hoard data for RACOM paper
  • Teaching requests for Fall 2023
  • Set time table for any collaborative RRDP work/publication prep that needs to happen this semester: Chicago pub, INC pub, collaboration with RACOM, etc…
  • Circle back to Capito project
  • Consider ask for funding from Dean’s office
  • Begin Med school rec letter
  • record mini myth
  • find out what is on that v old harddrive and back up to cloud
  • Write up Teaching Eval
  • renew Coinarchives

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