Casting Simulations of Arsenical Copper: New Insights into Prehistoric Metal Production and Materials


To improve our understanding of prehistoric casting methods and materials, simulations for copper arsenic (As-Cu) alloys with up to 15 wt.% As were calculated. Cooling curves and the secondary dendritic arm spacings (SDAS) for the alloy were plotted and calculated, respectively, under non-steady-state conditions with a time-stepping procedure for prehistoric mold materials (e.g., quartz sand, sandstone, terracotta, and steatite). The cooling and microstructure of the alloy was also simulated in iron molds for immediate comparison with as-cast microstructure. The microstructure and SDAS of the as-cast alloys were studied and measured in polished samples with a metallographic microscope. The purpose of this research was to improve our ability to retroactively evaluate the influence of mold materials on as-cast microstructures and determine their materials. This article focuses on As-Cu alloy microstructure and SDAS values, and also discusses the phenomenon of “inverse segregation” and its relation to cooling rate and As concentration.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

(adapted from23).


A :

Mold metal interface (m2)

α :

Overall heat transmission coefficient (W m−2 K−1)

c :

Specific heat of the mold (J kg−1 K−1)

c m :

Specific heat of the metal (J kg−1 K−1)

c 0 :

Alloy concentration (wt.%)

c l :

Concentration of the liquid phase (wt.%)

D :

Diffusion coefficient (m2 s−1)

h :

Heat transfer coefficient (W m−2 K−1)

k :

Thermal conductivity of the mold (W m−1 K−1)

k 0 :

Partition coefficient

f s :

Mass fraction of solid phase

m :

Slope of the liquidus line (K wt.%−1)

n :

Time-step sequence (10−3 s)

t :

Time (s)

t f :

Local solidification time (s)

T :

Temperature of the metal (K)

T 0 :

Ambient temperature of the mold (K)

v :

Volume of casting (m3)

ΔT :

Solidification interval (K)

ΔHf :

Latent heat of fusion (J mol−1)

ρ :

Density of the mold (kg m−3)

ρ m :

Density of the metal (kg m−3)

Γ :

Gibbs–Thomson coefficient (K m)

λ :

Secondary dendritic arm spacing (µm)


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Dr. Benjamin J. Sabatini is an International Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) No. PE17781. This work was also supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Grant No. 656244.

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Correspondence to Marianne Mödlinger.

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Sabatini, B.J., Cziegler, A. & Mödlinger, M. Casting Simulations of Arsenical Copper: New Insights into Prehistoric Metal Production and Materials. JOM 72, 3269–3278 (2020).

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