Roman Metalworking in Northern Italy between Archaeology and Archaeometry: two Case-Studies

Elisa Maria Grassi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent excavations carried out in Milan and Verona supplied significant evidence of Roman metalworking, thus enhancing our knowledge of various aspects of this industry in the area. Two sites will be analyzed here: the excavations of the Università Cattolica in Milan and of the Seminario Vescovile in Verona. Both sites are placed in the suburbs of the roman cities, and both had been in use for a long time, witnessing several transformations in the settlement’s pattern and in the destination of the areas. The assemblages of slags found testify that in these sites, during the Roman imperial age, several kinds of metalworking processes had been carried out: large scale iron smithing and bronze casting, but also small-scale ones, such as brass-making (in Milan) and silver refining (in Verona). Sometimes different metals were worked in the same place at the same time, while in other periods the craftsmen seemed to be specialised in working only one metal. From a technological point of view, significant information come from the excavation in Verona. Clear evidence of a large-scale bronze casting have been found there: in particular, a fair amount of clay investment moulds for large objects, together with casting pits, hearths and slags, gives us an insight of the casting techniques used at that time. A few assemblages of much smaller clay moulds used to make parts of vessels and other small objects were found in Milan, thus allowing a comparison between the materials employed and the skills required for the two productive processes. Moreover, the width of both excavations allowed a better understanding of the layout of the manufacturing areas within the pattern of urban development, enhancing our knowledge of roman workshops’ structures. Metalworking evidence has been studied with a multi-disciplinal approach which has taken into account not only archaeometrical analyses, but also ethnoarchaeological parallels and the study of the written sources (epigraphic and literary). The aim was not only to understand technological aspects, but also to have an insight of their social and cultural environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-218
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Metallurgy
  • Roman Milan
  • archaeology

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