Metallurgical Characterization of A Coated Roman Iron Coin By Analytical Investigations

Roland Haubner, Susanne Strobl, Johannes Zbiral, Christian Gusenbauer, Ursula Pintz

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3 Citations (Scopus)


A coated Roman iron coin from Villa Loig in Salzburg, Austria was investigated. The coating is a copper alloy consisting of Cu, Pb, Sn, Zn and negligible amounts of Ag, a variant of gunmetal known as ‘leaded red brass’. The numismatic term for such a coin is subferratus (Latin). From an archaeometallurgical point of view, information about the chemical composition, the microstructure and the manufacturing technique are of interest. To achieve these objectives, different analytical techniques and metallographic examinations were applied. Droplet-shaped iron inclusions were observed in the red brass coating, while at the grain boundaries, inside the iron core, copper and lead were detected (liquid metal embrittlement). The dendritic microstructure of the coating, the spheroidal-shaped iron inclusions in the coating and the liquid metal embrittlement show that the iron coin was plated by immersing it in a molten copper alloy. The iron core is a low-carbon steel with slag stringers, both of which are characteristic of a bloomery iron. Deformation twins (Neumann lines) were observed in the microstructure of the iron core and indicate that the coining was performed after the flan was cooled.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-452
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • archaeometallurgy
  • roman iron coin
  • copper-alloy coating
  • subferratus
  • liquid metal embrittlement
  • deformation twins
  • Subferratus
  • Archaeometallurgy
  • Roman iron coin
  • Copper-alloy coating
  • Liquid metal embrittlement
  • Deformation twins


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