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What Was Corinthian Bronze?
D. M. Jacobson and M. P. Weitzman
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 96, No. 2 (Apr., 1992), pp. 237-247
Published by: Archaeological Institute of America
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/505923
Page Count: 11
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Classical and Oriental sources tell of a precious metal called Corinthian bronze. They agree that it was an alloy of copper, gold, and silver. Together they describe various stages in its manufacture-heat treatment, quenching, leaching, and burnishing. In addition, the Leiden papyrus X attests to a process of depletion gilding, whereby an alloy containing gold could acquire a golden surface hue. The process that can be pieced together from all these sources turns out to be essentially identical with that reconstructed by H. Lechtman and D. A. Scott for the tumbaga of the pre-Columbian cultures of South America. Experimental reconstruction produced a golden hue even in an alloy containing as little as 15% (by volume) of gold. Silver was found to be a necessary constituent for the gilding process. Some recent scholarship has suspected the accuracy of the ancient accounts, supposing instead that Corinthian bronze simply meant all bronze from Corinth, or alternatively a high-tin bronze invented in Corinth. In fact, however, Corinthian bronze was characterized by the admixture of precious metals and a special process of manufacture, exactly as specified in the ancient sources.
American Journal of Archaeology © 1992 Archaeological Institute of America