BRASS – Roman brass samples coming from ancient Mediolanum town: a PIXE investigation for the study of the production technology

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Giulia Marcucci


Milano Bicocca University (Italy)

In 2009, the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio of Milan conducted the excavation of Corso di Porta Romana 20 in Milan. This excavation unearthed numerous fragments of metal and crucible connected to bronze and brass production, datable between the end of I and the beginning of II century AD. This set of excavation finds is related to the activity of at least one workshop in the Roman city of Mediolanum.

A set of 15 crucible fragments has been investigated in a non-destructive way through Neutron Resonance Transmission Imaging (NRTI) to disclose evidence of brass casting and to reconstruct the production technology through the composition of the alloy enclosed in the crucible fragments.
NRTI is an innovative neutron imaging technique being implemented at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source as part of the thesis of a PhD student at Milano Bicocca University. NRTI allows mapping isotopes and elements within the bulk of the analysed sample, returning 2D maps of elements/isotopes distribution and potentially a quantitative evaluation of these elements/isotopes concentration.

As Ion Beam techniques (PIXE and PIGE) are well consolidated for quantitative analysis of archaeological artefacts, PIXE analysis on the crucible fragments will be a benchmark to compare NRTI quantitative and mapping results. Moreover, Ion Beam and neutron-based analysis can return complementary information due to the different particles involved in the interaction with the material. Through PIXE analysis, the crucible fragments composition can be characterized in major, minor and trace elements. Thus, a more comprehensive study of the production technology of brass in ancient Mediolanum can be achieved.