Distinguishability between ancient and modern leaded tin bronzes by the composition of their lead inclusions

S. Shilstein, A. Berner, Y. Feldman, S. Shalev, Yu Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The composition of lead inclusions in modern and ancient leaded tin bronzes was studied by X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) in Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Lattice parameter of lead inclusions in all bronzes was smaller than the lattice parameter of pure lead. This determination indicates that lead inclusions in bronzes are nothing else but Pb–Sn solid solutions. Tin concentration in lead inclusions in modern bronzes was not less than 3 at% in accordance with the Pb–Sn phase diagram, tin concentration in lead inclusions of ancient bronzes was as low as 1 at%. This difference enables a distinction between ancient bronze artefacts and modern products including the most sophisticated fakes. On the other hand, our work demonstrates that the generally accepted Pb–Sn phase diagram corresponds to an incomplete equilibrium state and only after centuries-long aging at ambient temperatures does the Pb–Sn solid solution reach real equilibrium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-35
Number of pages7
JournalScience and Technology of Archaeological Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 16 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Leaded tin ancient and modern bronzes
  • X-ray diffraction
  • composition of Pb–Sn solid solutions
  • energy dispersive spectroscopy in scanning electron microscope
  • lead inclusions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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