Establishing the archaeo-metallurgic ornamentation process of an axe from the bronze age by OM, SEM-EDX, and micro-FTIR

Microsc Res Tech. 2014 Nov;77(11):918-27. doi: 10.1002/jemt.22416. Epub 2014 Aug 5.


Our article presents the results of the analyses we performed by corroborating the Optical Microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Energy Dispersive Xray Analysis and micro Fourier Transformed InfraRed Analysis techniques to identify the archaeo-metallurgic casting and ornamentation procedure of a decorated disk-butted axe, which was discovered recently east of the Carpathian mountains, in the Moldavian Plateau. There are few known axes of that type found (A1, according to the usual typologies), as they are specific to the Middle Bronze Age period west of the Carpathians-the Wietenberg, Suciu de Sus, and Otomani-Füzesabony cultures. The experimental data on the item under study revealed the fact that after casting it in molds made from porous silicone-based stone, the object was coated with a thin layer, by immersing it in a lightly fusible tin alloy, whose main alloy component was copper and arsenic and iron as secondary components. After refining the shiny white layer, they applied a beautiful decoration pattern made by incision and engraving. This battle axe was an indication of higher status, such items usually being owned by community leaders. This important fact proves that the ancient metallurgic craftsmen were able to elaborate and manufacture various alloys from which they made beautiful objects and it also offers a new insight into the social and symbolic function of certain antique bronze items.

Keywords: OM; SEM-EDX; archaeometallurgy; disk-butted axe; micro-FTIR; middle bronze age; ornamental layer.