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The fingerprinting of roman gold by LA-ICP-MS


This paper aims to present the methodological approach developed by LA-ICP-MS that is used in the AUREUS program (2016 –2018), for the fingerprinting of gold by the analysis of gold coinage. The AUREUS project directed by Pr. Arnaud Suspène, links numismatists and analysts in the aim to understand the establishment of the first unitary gold coinage of occidental Europe: the Roman gold coinage. This multidisciplinary approach allows to establish the evolution of the gold stocks used for coinages between the end of the IVth century BC and the Ist century AD. At the end of the study almost 1000 coins from the main gold coinage areas (Africa, Greece, Italy, Celtic world, Spain) and pieces of jewellery from French patrimonial collections will have been analysed to determine the links between gold used by artisans, through their chemical fingerprints.The method used is based on several micro sampling by DPA-LA-HR-ICP-MS (Depth Profile Analysis by Laser Ablation coupled to a High Resolution Plasma Mass Spectrometer) at the IRAMAT-CEB laboratory (UMR 5060, IRAMAT-CEB, CNRS/university of Orléans). In this way, it is possible to determine the variations of the concentrations of the major, minor and trace elements from the surface of the coin to a depth ranging from tens to several hundred micrometres. Thus, this method allows us to avoid issues due to surface enrichments owing to the alteration of the metal through time but also to identify voluntary gilding certain flans sometimes carried out by the artisans in official mints to disguise low gold contents. The elemental analysis of gold coins makes it possible to understand the monetary policies by the different authorities. Moreover, thanks to the concentrations of platinum and palladium that are reliable elements to trace gold, it is possible to link the gold raw material employed for coin production between civilisations and determine the evolution of the origin of the supply and exchanges through time.
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hal-02565297 , version 1 (06-05-2020)


  • HAL Id : hal-02565297 , version 1


Sylvia Nieto-Pelletier, Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, Arnaud Suspène, Benjamin Gehres. The fingerprinting of roman gold by LA-ICP-MS: the AUREUS project. XVIII° congrès mondial de l’Union internationale des sciences préhistoriques et protohistoriques (UISPP), Union internationale des sciences préhistoriques et protohistoriques, Jun 2018, Paris, France. ⟨hal-02565297⟩
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