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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

It's all about.... Metal

A few weeks ago the Roman Baths had their exciting Science and Engineering week! Every day for a week there was a mix of science experiments and/or a display table. One of the display tables was created by me and I chose to talk about Metals. Here is the inside low down behind the metals the Romans would have had at their disposal throughout the Roman Empire.

Planning my table with Zosia
One of the world’s most desired metals even today! Gold in the Roman Empire was mined in various locations including Spain, Portugal and Dolaucothi in Wales. This metal’s soft properties and malleability made it easy to beat it into different shapes. It was a favourite metal to make into jewellery such as necklaces, bracelets, brooches and rings.

Roman currency relied on high supply of silver bullion. Silver was mined in various locations of the empire including Gaul, Greece and Asia Minor. In the mid 2nd century it was estimated 10,000 tons of silver was in circulation. This shiny, soft metal was used for jewellery, coins and utensils. Silver was also used to treat infections or illnesses.

Lead was commonly used in the Roman world because it was easily extracted and easy to work with. This metal was mined in various areas including central Europe, Spain, Britain and Greece. Lead was used for Roman piping because of its highly malleable and ductile properties. Lead’s symbol is Pb, which is the abbreviated word Plumbum in Latin. Plumbum, as you guessed it, derived later into the English word ‘Plumbing’.

Iron is the 6th most common element found in the universe. At the height of the Roman Empire it is estimated that approx 82,500 tons of iron was circulated annually. Under Roman rule iron became a very popular metal and its use intensified. This metal was used to create weapons and tools for everyday Roman life.


Bronze is an alloy consisting mainly of copper and 1/3 tin. Copper was mined in various areas including Gaul, Cyprus and Arabia. Romans would tear down local religious bronze sculptures within the empire and melt the metal to make armour, weapons, tools and coins. As the Roman Empire expanded, to help the Roman budget, less precious metals like bronze were used more often for coins instead of gold or silver.

Pewter is an alloy consisting 80-90% tin and 10-20% lead. Tin was mined in areas such as Iberia, Persia and Roman Britain. Pewter is a good conductor of heat and is sometimes used for cooking and tableware. Surviving examples of pewter can be found from Roman Britain dated around 3rd and 4th century AD.

For a link to just some of the metals within the Roman Bath's Collections please follow this link:

Solange - Collections placement

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