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Corpus of Roman Lead Ingots – Historic-archaeological and Scientific Investigations on the Production of Lead in the Roman Empire

Roman lead ingot from the mining region surrounding Carthago Nova (Cartagena, Spain) with inscription of the entrepreneurs (probably brothers) Marcus and Caius Pontilienus, sons of Marcus that formed a leasing community (societas). The ingot is part of a 30 tons load (1001 pieces) of several lead producers from mines around Carthago Nova. The ship shipwrecked around the beginning of the second quarter of the first century BC close to Mal di Ventre on the western coast of Sardinia.

The project “Historic-archaeological and scientific investigations on the production of lead in the Roman Empire”, which was conducted from 2009-2015 as a cooperation of the Commission of Ancient History and Epigraphy of the German Archaeological Institute (Dr. Peter Rothenhöfer) and the Department of Archaeometallurgy of the German Mining Museum Bochum. First, a corpus of all Roman lead ingots from the 1st century BC to the first half of the 5th century AD was created, which contains about 3000 pieces in this time span. For recording of the material the database iDAI.field is used, in which all relevant epigraphical, scientific and archaeological information of the ingots can be found. The provenance of the lead was determined by the inscriptions and material analyses (lead isotopes and analysis of trace elements: Dr. Michael Bode); the exploitation of the lead deposits within the Roman Empire in its various provinces of the Mediterranean and the surrounding areas. The distribution of the important trading good lead surpassing the borders of provinces can be proven by large loads in shipwrecks and also single finds. New insights on the extraction of raw material, the distribution of metal, the organization of the Roman lead trade, and institutional mining are to be gained by this interdisciplinary research.

Supervision: Dr. Norbert Hanel