Copper-based metalwork in Roman to early Islamic Jerash (Jordan): Insights into production and recycling through alloy compositions and lead isotopes

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  • Vana Orfanou, University College Dublin
  • ,
  • Thomas Birch
  • ,
  • Achim Lichtenberger, Christliche Archäologie/Archäologisches Museum, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany
  • Rubina Raja
  • Gry Hoffmann Barfod
  • Charles Lesher
  • Christoph Eger, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Metallographic, chemical and lead isotopic analyses of copper-based artefacts recovered from the Northwest Quarter in Jerash (ancient Gerasa) in Jordan provide new information on the civic life and material culture from a key urban site in the Roman Empire’s eastern provinces. The samples span the city’s occupation from its flourishing under Roman rule into the Byzantine and early Islamic periods. We examined 49 copper-based artefacts were examined using reflected light microscopy and micro-X-ray fluorescence. A subset of these artefacts was analysed by electron microprobe spectroscopy for major and minor elements at higher spatial resolution, and by multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for lead isotopes. Results imply that binary bronze dominated the Roman period, (leaded) brass characterised the Byzantine period, while tin-containing alloys were prevalent during the Islamic period. Lead isotopes suggest that during the Roman and Byzantine periods some of the metal in Jerash came from European and/or Mediterranean sources, while copper used during the Islamic period may have been sourced more locally from Timna. The changes in alloy types and lead isotopes suggest that recycling of metals took place in Jerash possibly as early as the Roman period and more frequent from the Byzantine period onwards.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102519
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Byzantine, Copper-based metallurgy, Early Islamic, Elemental analyses, Jordan, Lead isotope analyses, Roman

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