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Terence Bell

Metals & Money: Brass

By November 19, 2012

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Dupondii (plural for dupondius) were a denomination of brass coins minted by the Roman Empire between about 23BC and 200AD. They are the first Dupondiusevidence of large-scale brass use anywhere.

While brass artifacts that date as far back as the 5th millennia BC do exist, there is no documentation suggesting the conscious alloying of copper and zinc ores until around the 4th century BC.

Brass coins were first minted in Bithynia and Phrygia, in modern Turkey, around 100BC, and by the time of the first minting of dupondii brass coins were being minted in large numbers in Rome and quickly spread throughout the Roman Empire.

Early brass, including that used to mint dupondii, was made using a cementation process that involved heating metallic copper with calamine ore, which has a high zinc content. As the zinc vapourized it would be absorbed by the copper, creating brass alloys with between 15-30% zinc content.

Read more on the History of Brass.

Image: Dupondius of Vespasian, struck in Lyon around 72AD. 29mm in diameter. Author: Bedoyere. Public Domain.


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