Monday, July 09, 2012

X-rays reveal secrets of Roman coins

New tech­nique could dra­mat­i­cal­ly speed up assess­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of archae­o­log­i­cal finds

Sci­en­tists have used a new x-ray tech­nique to pro­duce spec­tac­u­lar 3D images of Roman coins that were cor­rod­ed inside pots or blocks of soil.

The rotat­ing images built up from thou­sands of two-dimensional scans are so clear that indi­vid­ual coins can be iden­ti­fied and dated, with­out a sin­gle bat­tered denar­ius – the Roman cur­ren­cy – being vis­i­ble to the naked eye. The advan­tage of the new method – devel­oped by a unique col­lab­o­ra­tion between archae­ol­o­gists and sci­en­tists at the British Muse­um and Southamp­ton Uni­ver­si­ty – is that it means coins can be iden­ti­fied and even dated much more quick­ly and with­out risk­ing dam­age to them.