2,000-year-old Roman copper bowl found in England, rusted due to pesticides (photo)
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The bowl was found under 40 cm of dirt on a farm between two ancient Roman settlements, Richborough and Canterbury . And it dates from the Roman period, that is, somewhere between 43 and 410 years.
Without a doubt, the deterioration of archaeological sites is accelerating not only due to climate change, acid rain and severe storms. Artifacts and ruins found are also affected by smog, not only due to blackening with soot, but also due to corrosive chemicals scratching the material, writes Haaretz.
According to a new study by scientists based on microanalysis a bronze bowl found in Kent in the south of England, pollutants in the soil also hasten decay. The find dates from the Roman period, that is, somewhere between 43 and 410 years. The bowl was found under 40 cm of dirt on a farm between two ancient Roman settlements, Richborough and Canterbury.
When it was discovered, traces of greenish and brown corrosion were noticed on it. Of course, there is nothing surprising in the fact that an Iron Age bronze bowl buried for 2,000 years is corroded. But, as the team notes, the green corrosion in that bowl contained chlorobenzenes, while the brown corrosion contained diethyltoluamide — better known as DEET, an ingredient in bedbug spray. The authors of the study studied the corrosive properties of the chemicals and concluded that contaminants accelerated the deterioration of the bowl.
Chlorobenzenes are colorless solvents commonly used by farmers as pesticides, as well as in industry, including in the production of paints and dyes, paint removers. One catch is that they are toxic. British farmers started using them as pesticides in the early 20th century, and England banned their use in agriculture in 1975 precisely because they are cumulative and toxic.
Chlorobenzenes, found in the green corrosion on the bowl, could not come from natural sources because they are artificial molecules. The same applies to the diethyltoluamide found in the brown corrosion of the bowl. DEET is best known for repelling mosquitoes and ticks.
DEET in brown corrosion is really intriguing. The bowl was found buried near the surface, so it is possible that irrigation with contaminated water may have caused the compound to enter the soil surrounding the bowl.