Skip to main content

Initial experiments on arsenical bronze production


The work reported in this article forms the basis for an extended study of arsenic bronze. The ease with which a copper-arsenic alloy could be prepared by fusing copper metal with arsenopyrite has been shown; conditions can be readily adjusted to yield alloys with compositions equivalent to those made in antiquity. While iron-metal prills were found in the fused crucible remains, it is probable that such metallic iron will only be observed in ancient crucible sherds when full vitrification has taken place, otherwise the iron will weather over time to oxide.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. J. Mitchell, Manual of Practical Assaying, 2nd ed. (London: Hippolyte Baillere, 1854), pp. 270–271.

    Google Scholar 

  2. V. Biriguccio, The Pirotechnia, by C.S. Smith and M.T. Gnudi (New York: American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, 1942), pp. 170–172.

    Google Scholar 

  3. C. Schnabel, Handbook of Metallurgy, vol.1 (London: Macmillen, 1905), pp. 243–247.

    Google Scholar 

  4. K.A. Yener, E. Ceckinli, and H. Özbal, A Brief Survey of Anatolian Metallurgy Prior to 560 BC. Archaeometry 94, ed. S. Demirici et al. (Ankara: Tubitak, 1996) pp. 378–379.

    Google Scholar 

  5. H. Lechtman, “Arsenic Bronze: Dirty Copper or Chosen Alloy,” J. Field Archaeology, 23 (1996), pp. 477–514.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. J.A. Charles, “Early Arsenical Bronze—A Metallurgical View,” Amer. J. Archaeology, 71 (1968), pp. 21–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. H. Özbal et al., “Minor Metallic Components Associated with Anatolian Copper and Bronze Artifacts: Indications of the Utilization of Polymetallic Ores,” Proceedings of the 31st International Symposium on Archeometry (Budapest-Oxford: Archaeolingua, in press).

  8. B. Earl, “Arsenic Winning and Refining Methods in the West of England,” J. Trevithick Society, 10 (1983), pp. 9–29.

    Google Scholar 

  9. P. Craddock and N.D. Meeks, “Iron in Ancient Copper,” Archaeometry, 29 (1987), pp. 187–204.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. C. Gillis, “The Economic Value and Color Symbolism of Tin” (Paper presented at the Metals in Antiquity Symposium, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, Massachusetts 1997).

  11. E.J. Holmyard, Alchemy (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1957) for discussions on the significance of color in metallurgy.

  12. G. Plattes, A Discovery of Subterranean Treasure (London: Emery, 1639).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

B. Earl is a consultant mining engineer. A. Adriaens is with the University of Antwerp.

Authors’ Note: All compositions are given in weight percent unless otherwise indicated.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Earl, B., Adriaens, A. Initial experiments on arsenical bronze production. JOM 52, 14–16 (2000).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Arsenic
  • Arsenopyrite
  • Alpha Phase
  • Molten Copper
  • Arsenical Copper