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by Archaeology Newsroom

Historic technology. Useful information for archaeologists and historians

It is commonly accepted that recently graduated archaelogists do not possess enough knowledge of the notions and technical terminology required later on in museum or excavation work. Thus, they obtain their first knowledge of the various materials used by their ancestors within the archaeological environment. However, this experience is not enough to clarify in their minds basic technical terms, frequent in their scientific engagement, and as a result many things remain obscure. The study of ancient texts by a technician is another interesting subject, in such a text a technician can discover exceptionally important information about ancient technology, while an archaeologist can miss it since he is differently oriented and trained as regards science. An eloquent example is the today famous stone inscription of Eleusis of the fourth century BC. The text refers to a commission for bronze decorative elements. The commission includes in it contemporary technical and chemical standards, therefore its discovery is an important contribution to the history ot technology not only of Greece but also of the entire known world of the era. The inscription was found in the archaeological site of Eleusis in 1893 and was since kept in the small museum as an ordinary exhibit without anyone ever suspecting what extremely valuable information was hidden among the lines of its text. This commission was based on the oldest European prototype, a really thrilling fact! The first natural question that arises is how quality control was kept in that period since such a control would guarantee the model standards and would eliminate risk of adulteration.

This argument is also supported by another inscription, which refers to the commission of the goddess Athena’s anthemion in the Parthenon and informs us that the price of copper per talandon (twenty five to twenty six kilos) was thirty five ancient drachmas, while tin was exceedingly more expensive reaching two hundred and thirty drachmas for an equal quantity. Therefore, if there was no control, fraud would be only natural.