This funded PhD project (an Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the British Museum and the University of Reading) will focus on ca. 100 Roman copper-alloy figures now curated in the British Museum by the Department of Greece and Rome. It combines two aims - to establish findspot provenance by analysing volcanic particles and to integrate metallurgical analysis with iconographic and historical study of figurines that throw new light on religious and cultural practices in 1st century Italy. Of c. 1800 Roman copper-alloy figurines in the BM Greece and Rome Dept, 68% have no confirmed findspot. Half of the collection were acquired between 1750 and 1869 from just ten collectors, all of whom are known to have bought objects from the Naples region. It is therefore likely that most of the items are from the ‘cities of Vesuvius’. Since volcanic particles are adhering to the surface of many of these metal objects, we have an unprecedented opportunity to establish their provenance. We will focus on figurines of varying quality, contrasting Egyptian and Eastern deities with traditional Roman gods and mythological figures.
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