Monday, July 09, 2012

X-rays reveal secrets of Roman coins

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.

Roger Bland, a coins expert who is also head of the Portable Antiquities and Treasure schemesfor reporting archaeological finds, based at the British Museum, said: "The initial results are very encouraging and in some cases remarkable. 

The techniques could have profound implications for the way we assess and study finds in the future, producing results in a few hours that would take a conservator weeks or even months."