Separating silver sources of Archaic Athenian coinage by comprehensive compositional analyses

Journal article


Davis, Gillan, Gore, Damian B., Sheedy, Kenneth A. and Albarède, Francis. (2020). Separating silver sources of Archaic Athenian coinage by comprehensive compositional analyses. Journal of Archaeological Science. 114, p. Article 105068. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2019.105068
AuthorsDavis, Gillan, Gore, Damian B., Sheedy, Kenneth A. and Albarède, Francis
Abstract

This article demonstrates that distinct and coherent silver sources can be discriminated from surface compositional analyses. In the first large-scale study of Archaic (pre-479 BC) Athenian silver coins in museum collections around the world, we analysed 788 coins by Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry with a mathematical correction to provide a reliable composition for key diagnostic elements. Principal Component Analysis reveals compositional patterns including at least one copper-lead-gold (Cu, Pb, Au) triplet with strong clustering of data. The pattern for bismuth (Bi) was similar to, but not as clear as Pb. Considering elemental compositions in combination with a die study and isotopic analyses in the literature, we reveal when Lavrion was the metal source from which Wappenmünzen and Owl coinage types were struck, providing important new understanding about Athenian history in the pivotal period of transition from tyranny to democracy in the late sixth century BC. Beyond this specific example, we contend that XRF spectrometry could have wider application in studies of ancient silver, not least for a simplified triage protocol to help determine which silver artefacts should be subjected to slower, more costly and invasive trace elemental and isotopic analyses.1

KeywordsXRF; lead isotope analysis; Athenian coins; silver; owls; wappenmünzen
Year2020
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Journal citation114, p. Article 105068
PublisherElsevier Ltd
ISSN0305-4403
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2019.105068
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85077325885
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range1-8
FunderAustralian Research Council (ARC)
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online05 Jan 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted17 Dec 2019
Deposited12 Dec 2021
ARC Funded ResearchThis output has been funded, wholly or partially, under the Australian Research Council Act 2001
Grant IDARC/DP120103519
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