Finding an ancient stash of coins or metal relics has always been exciting, but if a coin was corroded enough, there wasn’t a lot of historical significance that could be tapped from that coin. Advancements in technology are allowing coins to tell tales we never had access to before with old methods of coin analysis.
Using new applications of X-ray fluorescence and isotope analysis, and specialized software and reference materials from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, scientists have at their fingertips a means of nondestructive evaluation analyze coins while extracting vital data about the coin which was previously unavailable to them using older and more destructive methods of analysis.
Coins can now be correctly attributed to the particular ruler when corrosion leaves questions about the origin of the coin, but using the new methods of calibration, scientists can also fingerprint the ores from which the coin was fashioned. Because metals differ from location to location, by fingerprinting the metal the coin is composed of, scientists are able to use the new technologies and methods of calibration to tell where the metal in the coin came from.
By putting together the rulers coins were minted under and location from which the metal originated archaeologists have a means to place the dates of mining industry and find out more about a culture’s commerce than they could ever uncover before. They can also do so with unprecedented accuracy. Tests run on coins have already shown that the mines of Arabia operational much earlier than presumed, although it is still a question whether the Romans had moved to the region earlier than presumed or or whether the mines were already running when they arrived. The interaction between Romans and Arabian culture was going on earlier than supposed.
Fingerprinting metal artifacts is likely to lead to some very startling discoveries about early mining and trade. Perhaps it won’t be long before we find which far away culture was mining the copper of Northern Michigan over six thousand years ago. Is the who-done-it novel about to succumb to a new breed of archaeological reports?