Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 3375–3388 | Cite as

Novel analytical protocols for elemental and isotopic analysis of lead coins—Sasanian lead coins as a case study

  • Alicia Van Ham-MeertEmail author
  • Frederik W. Rademakers
  • Philippe Claeys
  • François Gurnet
  • Rika Gyselen
  • Bruno Overlaet
  • Patrick Degryse
Original Paper


This paper presents a new non-destructive sampling method for the lead isotope analysis of lead objects using acidified cotton swabs. The results are indistinguishable within error margin from conventional sampling methods. This method was applied to a series of Sasanian lead coins from the Royal Museums of Art and History as well as a private collection. Elemental analysis was performed using micro-X-ray fluorescence. Isotopic analysis was performed using multi collector-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Lead isotope analysis showed that at least four distinct sources of lead were used over time by the Sasanians to produce coins. Elemental analysis revealed three compositional groups distinct from the isotope groups, showing that a change in composition did not necessarily follow a change in raw materials supply. The uniformity of isotope compositions within particular periods, and of chemical composition across different mints, may point to a central control of both raw material supply and composition of Sasanian lead coins.


Sasanian coins Lead provenance Pb isotopes μXRF MC-ICP-MS 



The authors are grateful to the RMAH for allowing the analysis of the samples and to Mr. François Gurnet for kindly lending his coins.

Funding information

The research is funded by an FWO grant (G.0C43.15). The authors are grateful for the Hercules funding which allowed the purchase of the μXRF.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth and Environmental Science, Centre for Archaeological Science, Division of GeologyKU LeuvenHeverleeBelgium
  2. 2.Analytical, Environmental and Geo-ChemistryVUBBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.La LouviereBelgium
  4. 4.Mondes Iranien et IndienCNRSIvry-sur-SeineFrance
  5. 5.Ancient Near East and Iran, Royal Museums of Art and HistoryBrusselsBelgium
  6. 6.Faculty of Archaeology, Archaeological SciencesUniversiteit LeidenLeidenNetherlands

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