A Lydian Bed of Iron, Bronze and Copper - Technical Examination of a Metallurgical Masterpiece

User menu

Publication Type:

Journal Article


David A. Scott; Maish, Jeffrey P.;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 55, Number 1, p.3-19 (2010)


A Lydian bed dating to about 505 BC provides a rare example of trimetallic construction in iron, copper and bronze. Iron bars were used to produce an armature over which a highly leaded tin bronze was cast. Copper sheeting was used to create a lattice in between the bed rails, cast in position when the bronze was poured. Although metallic, the bed evokes a wooden furniture model in the use of tongue-and-groove and pseudo mortise-and-tenon joints. Textile remains on the bed in pseudomorphic form as well as multilayered areas of woven linen. X- and gamma radiography were used to study the construction techniques. Metallic composition was derived from inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry and corrosion products were studied using polarized light microscopy and X-ray diffraction. The corrosion study revealed a large number of complex copper-lead minerals which formed as a result of the conjoint corrosion of both copper and lead, as well as sampleite, NaCaCu5(PO4)4Cl·5H2O, and sampleite together with libethenite, Cu2(PO4)(OH), whose possible diagenesis is discussed in relation to different burial environments.