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James Frederick Gerrard

During the Roman period vessels were manufactured from many different materials, including pottery, wood, bone, glass, stone, rock crystal, and metal. For metal vessels a useful distinction can be made between precious plate (gold and silver) and base-metal vessels usually manufactured from copper alloys (bronze, brass) or tin/lead alloys (pewter).Various alloys of copper are mentioned in Roman-period texts,1 and scientific analysis (such as x-ray fluoresence) allows the composition of ancient vessels to be ascertained with relative ease.2 Roman metalworkers clearly appreciated the different properties of alloys, and the various elements of an individual vessel may be manufactured from various alloys.The properties of copper alloys allowed vessels to be produced by both casting and beating.3 Many exhibit traces of hammering, or a central hole in the base where they were mounted on a lathe for finishing. Additional elements (such as feet, handles, and decorative mounts) could be applied to a vessel with solder or rivets (Figure 1).