The European Physical Journal Applied Physics

Imaging, Microscopy and Spectroscopy

TEM characterization of the fine scale microstructure of a Roman ferrous nail

J. Douina1a2, O. Henrya1a2, F. Dabosia3a4 and P. Sciaua1a2

CNRS; CEMES; BP 94347, 29 rue J. Marvig, 31055 Toulouse, France

Université de Toulouse; UPS, INSA, CEMES, 31055 Toulouse, France

CIRIMAT, ENSIACET, INPT, 4 allée Émile Monso, BP 74233, 31432 Toulouse Cedex 4, France

TRACES, UMR 5608, Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, 31058 Toulouse, France


This paper describes the microstructure of a Roman ferrous nail through its observation by transmission electron microscopy. The morphologies of pearlitic colonies and ferritic grains are detailed and the relationship between pearlitic colonies and ferrite in Roman nails is explicitly demonstrated for the first time. Observations also confirm the presence of dislocations in ferritic grains and attest to the existence of very small carbide precipitates that have not been pointed out previously in standard archaeometric studies.

(Received December 10 2009)

(Revised March 23 2010)

(Accepted May 4 2010)

(Online publication June 11 2010)