Lead from ancient shipwreck will line Italian neutrino experiment.
Around four tonnes of ancient Roman lead was yesterday transferred from a museum on the Italian island of Sardinia to the country's national particle physics laboratory at Gran Sasso on the mainland. Once destined to become water pipes, coins or ammunition for Roman soldiers' slingshots, the metal will instead form part of a cutting-edge experiment to nail down the mass of neutrinos.
The 120 lead ingots, each weighing about 33 kilograms, come from a larger load recovered 20 years ago from a Roman shipwreck, the remains of a vessel that sank between 80 B.C. and 50 B.C. off the coast of Sardinia. As a testimony to the extent of ancient Rome's manufacturing and trading capacities, the ingots are of great value to archaeologists, who have been preserving and studying them at the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari, southern Sardinia. What makes the ingots equally valuable to physicists is the fact that over the past 2,000 years their lead has almost completely lost its natural radioactivity.
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