Nine Roman gold coins under the synchrotron light

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Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture - Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the Provinces of Como, Lecco, Monza e Brianza, Pavia Sondrio and Varese. Reproduction or duplication by any means is strictly prohibited. Foto Goina.

Nine Roman gold coins were analysed at Elettra Sincrotrone as part of the COINS (COmo treasure INterdisciplinary Study) project by the University of Turin, University of Milan, University of Pavia, and the Superintendence of Archaeology Fine Arts and Landscape.
They are made of gold, date back to the 5th century A.D., and have spent the last 15 centuries underground, guarded by the walls of an amphora. Then, in September 2018, they could shine again in the sunlight: one thousand coins were found during an excavation, taking the breath away from the archaeologists who found them. This extraordinary discovery is known as the "Como Treasure", and nine of those coins are the protagonists of the experiment carried out few weeks ago in Elettra.
Given the rarity and the extremely high value of these finding, any analysis must preserve their integrity and even the slightest damage must be avoided.
For this reason, the research team, consisting of researchers from the universities of Pavia and Turin and an official archaeologist from the Ministry of Culture (SABAP-CO-LC), chose the XRF beamline.
X-rays are known for their ability to analyse materials of various kinds without altering their structure, but not all sources are the same. Indeed synchrotron sources such as Elettra, combined with the XRF beamline instrumentation, can in fact analyse the composition of coins by identifiying even those elements having  concentrations that are undetectable by conventional X-ray sources.

This kind of studies demonstrates the importance of the collaboration among experts from apparently distant disciplines, as in the case of history and numismatics from chemistry and physics. In this case more than ever, the combination of different fields of expertise allows researchers to assess new levels of knowledge. Similar results would be impossible working independently.

Having completed the data acquisition, the team is now dealing with the data analysis. For them, the hard work has just started and it will take months to obtain results and publish them in scientific peer reviewed journals.
Last Updated on Monday, 03 July 2023 14:34