Archeometallurgical characterization of Late Roman- and Byzantine-period Samaritan magical objects and jewelry made of copper alloys

D. Ashkenazi, Itamar Taxel, O. Tal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Characterization of eleven copper alloy artifacts, dated between the 4th and 6th (or early 7th) centuries AD, retrieved from archeological excavations of remains associated with Samaritan sites along the central Coastal Plain of Israel, was performed. The assemblage includes three inscribed polygonal finger rings, four finger rings with decorated bezel (of which one bears a legend in the Samaritan script), two inscribed amulet pendants, and two thin cylindrical foils (containers of phylacteries, designated for the safekeeping of a magical or religious text written on papyri or parchment). The aim of this research is to use archeometallurgical non-destructive and destructive methods in order to determine manufacturing processes of the objects, and if possible their production place, their origin of ore and their use. The results indicate that the three polygonal rings were prestige objects made of gunmetal and manufactured by lost-wax casting followed by heat-treatment probably at the same workshop. Among the four finger rings with decorated bezel, the two with incised motifs were made of gunmetal alloy, while the one with eye-shaped bezel was made of relatively pure leaded-copper, and the other ring, with the inscribed bezel, was made of brass. These rings were manufactured by using dissimilar techniques; the two with decorated bezel by casting and then shaped by hammering and annealing cycles; the eye-shaped bezel ring by casting with no further treatment; and the inscribed bezel ring made of brass by manufacturing two different parts, hoop and bezel, that were brazed together, and then hammered and annealed. Both amulet pendants were manufactured by lost-wax casting and given their shape and composition they were probably manufactured at two different workshops. Both cylindrical foils were made of leaded-copper that was first cast into an open mold, then hammered into a thin foil and folded at a later stage, probably at the same workshop. All the examined gunmetal and brass artifacts contained 4-20 wt.% Zn, indicating that their alloys were originally manufactured by cementation, produced of recycled metal, probably due to economic considerations. The present study indicates the existence of a limited number of local metal workshops which specialized in the manufacture of copper alloy jewelries and related objects; some were apparently operated by Samaritans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-208
Number of pages14
JournalMaterials Characterization
StatePublished - Apr 2015


  • Archeometallurgy
  • Byzantine
  • Copper alloys
  • Late
  • Microstructural characterization
  • Roman
  • Samaritans

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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