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Copper Alloy Coins from the Byzantine-Period Ma‘agan Mikhael B Shipwreck, Israel: Metallurgical Characterization

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Abstract

After three excavation seasons the Ma‘agan Mikhael B shipwreck has revealed, among other objects, seven coins. The coins were found covered with a black concretion layer, which was carefully removed from five of them. Metallurgical methods were used in order to reveal the composition, microstructure, and manufacturing process of the coins and to determine their date and the origin of the raw material. The coins were made of cast copper-lead alloy and were heated before being stamped. Based on the portrait of the House of Constantine I found on coins 120.1 and 120.2, and the figure on coin 120.5, combined with the composition of the coins, they were dated to the fourth century AD, when high concentrations of lead were added to alloys, most probably due to economic constraints. The study of the coins does not identify the ship’s origin or her ports-of-call, since coins were essentially mobile.

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Acknowledgements

The underwater excavations (IAA permits G-41/2016 and G-40/2017) and research of the Ma‘agan Mikhael B shipwreck are supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 1891/16), the Honor Frost Foundation, a Dov Shafir Fellowship, a Natan Rotenstreich Scholarship, a Sir Maurice Hatter Fellowship, the Research Authority of the University of Haifa, and anonymous donors, to whom the authors are grateful. The authors are grateful to S. Ashkenazi and R. Ashkenazi for their assistance; to N. Iddan and S. Ariely, Materials Laboratory, Israel Electric Corporation, Haifa, for their helping hand; to H. Gitler, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, for his contribution; and to J. B. Tresman for the English editing. Special thanks are due to the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions.

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Cohen, M., Ashkenazi, D., Bijovsky, G.I. et al. Copper Alloy Coins from the Byzantine-Period Ma‘agan Mikhael B Shipwreck, Israel: Metallurgical Characterization. Metallogr. Microstruct. Anal. 7, 542–560 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13632-018-0476-8

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