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The ancient civilizations knew only seven metals, gold, silver, copper, iron, mercury, tin and lead. They also knew seven heavenly bodies and related these metals to them. Gold was denoted with the Sun's symbol of a full circle, which represents mathematical perfection. Silver was associated with the Moon, and was denoted by a half circle, Iron was associated with Mars, the planet of the god of war, and thus was denoted with a shield and spear. Copper was denoted by a full circle because of its red color, which resembles gold. Lead was heavy and dull of all metals, and so was least valued, and came under the influence of Saturn. The number seven is unique because it represents the sum of the angles of the two fundamental geometrical figures, the triangle and the square. The pilgrims at Mecca tour around the Kabba seven times. saint Ignatius of Loyola mentioned the seven deadly sins in his 'Spiritual Exercises'.
The History Page
The Seven Metals of Antiquity
The ancient civilizations knew only
seven metals: gold, silver, copper, iron,
mercury, tin, and lead. They also knew
seven celestial bodies: the Sun, Moon,
and the five planets Venus, Mars,
Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn which
they thought all revolved round the
Earth. This coincidence apparently
suggested a relation between metals
and the celestial bodies. Each celestial
body was associated with one of the
metals, so those symbols of these
bodies also became the symbols of
their respective metals. Thus gold was
denoted with the Sun’s symbol of a full
circle which represents mathematical
perfection, because, as the Sun was
the dominant celestial body, gold had a
similar ranking among metals. Gold
was also associated with Sun by virtue
of its bright yellow color.
Silver, which ranked second in
perfection and so was associated with
the Moon, was donated by a half circle
resembling the crescent Moon. The
association of silver with the Moon was
reinforced by the metal’s appearance.
Being the warrior’s metal, iron was
associated with Mars, the planet of the
god of war. The metal was therefore
denoted with a shield and spear. The
symbols of the remaining metals
incorporated a cross to signify the
connection between alchemy and
religion. In addition to a cross, copper
was denoted by a full circle because of
its red color, which resembles gold
more than the other metals. In this was
the copper symbol came to resemble a
hand mirror and was often called
looking-glass of Venus.
As its name suggests, quicksilver
moves quickly, so the metal was
associated with Mercury, the planet of
the messenger of the gods. This is also
the origin of the modern term mercury.
The quicksilver symbol also included a
circle topped by the crescent of silver
to denote the close similarity in color
and brightness of the metals. The
symbols of tin and lead bore a close
resemblance because they were often
considered to be only variants of the
same metal or a debased form of silver.
This was the reason for the symbols
curved sections reminiscent of the
crescent of the Moon. As lead was
heavy and dull, it was the least valued
of all metals and came under the
influence of Saturn, which was the
farthest from the Earth of all known
Man observed the early rising of the
Sun, its annual northward and
southward movements in the sky. The
striking view of a sky covered with a
multitude of shining objects of different
degree of brightness, the changing
phases of the Moon, comets and
shooting stars, and the surprising
phenomena of eclipses of Sun and
Moon, have raised feelings of
admiration and often of superstitions
By accidental coincidences, for
example, the death of a monarch and
the occurrence an eclipse, famine and
the fall of a meteorite there arose a
belief that the stars foretold the course
of human affairs. By such observations
and interpretations of the heavens, the
Babylonian astrologer acquired a real
power over the minds of people. The
idea that man’s destiny was controlled
by the stars led to the concept of Fate.
The stars move according to fixed laws
and similar events are reproduced on
In Egypt, the stars were
systematically observed that they
might be properly worshipped in
connection with the annual flooding of
the Nile River and this resulted in an
accurate determination of the length of
the year. The Babylonians listed the
times of the new Moon from which the
beginning of each month was
calculated. Gradually the periodicity of
astronomical events became apparent,
till the relative positions of the Sun and
Moon were calculated in advance, and
the prediction of eclipses was made
possible. The stars were found to be
guides for the traveller by land or sea,
the Moon giving light at night in the
desert, and the Sun giving warmth.
Metals were useful as jewelry, utensils,
and weapons.
Amulets and charms were believed
to drive out the evil spirits responsible
for infirmities of the sick were made of
metals partly because of their
supposed relations with planets.
Similarly the explanation of natural
phenomena like lightning, earthquakes,
floods, thunder storm, winds, volcanos,
eclipses, comets, tornados, rainbow,
clouds, etc. Men gradually learned to
associate significant changes in their
environments with changes in the
heavens. The Moon and the stars are
means of keeping track of time. For
many primitive tribes, the
determination of the time for sowing is
so important that in every village the
task is entrusted to a man whose sole
occupation is to observe the signs.
Once secret methods of time-
reckoning were combined with the
ancient’s belief in the need to calm the
heavens, the priest-astronomer
emerged. Man’s tendency to worship
heavenly bodies has given calendar
making a religious significance. The
names of our months enshrine the
Roman gods Janus and Mars, and the
goddesses Maia and Juno. The days of
the week commemorate the Teutonic
deities Tiw, Woden, Thor and Fria, as
well as the sacred Sun and Moon.
Seven metals, seven planets, seven
days, the seven colors of the rainbow,
and much more. The ancient Greeks
recognized only seven wonders
although many more were certainly
known. It is attributed to Phythagoras
that the number seven is unique
because it represents the sum of the
angels of the two fundamental
geometrical figures: the triangle and
the square. In the Orient, there are
celebrations after seven days when a
baby is born. A multiple of seven, 14
when he is adolescent, and 21 when
mature. In the Bible the story of Joseph
mentions seven lean and seven good
years. In Koran the number 7 is
mentioned at least twenty four times:
ß2008 Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and The AusIMM
Published by Maney on behalf of the Institute and The AusIMM
190 DOI 10.1179/174328508X361200
Mineral Processing and Extractive
Metallurgy (Trans. Inst. Min. Metall. C) 2008 VOL 117 NO 3
seven heavens, seven cows, etc. The
pilgrims to Meca tour around the Kaaba
seven times. Saint Ignatius of Loyola
(1491–1556) mentioned the seven
deadly sins in his ‘Spiritual Exercises’
published in 1522. Even in modern
times, the pH of a neutral solution is 7!
But of course, God’s Commandments
to Moses were ten and the basic
Christian doctrine is a trinity.
The names of days were inherited
from Teutonic tribes, who had
borrowed some names from the
Romans. Thus, Sunday and Monday,
honoring the Sun and Moon, are
Roman: so is Saturday,
commemorating the Roman god
Saturn. For other days of the week, the
Teutons discarded Roman gods for
their own gods. So the fourth day of the
week commemorates the Teutornic
god Woden. (In the Roman god
Mercury- thus, the French mercredi,
the italian mercoledi).
Suggested Readings
F. Habashi, From Alchemy to Atomic
Bombs,Me´ tallurgie Extractive Que´ bec,
Sainte-Foy, Que´ bec 2002, distributed
by Laval University Bookstore ‘Zone’,
Quebec City, Canada.
Fathi Habashi
Laval University, Quebec City,
The History Page
Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy (Trans. Inst. Min. Metall. C) 2008 VOL 117 NO 3191
Alchemists in antiquity recognised the existence of seven celestial bodies, seven gods and seven metals. Of these, three were precious or ornamental, gold, silver and copper, one was used for tools and weaponry, iron, while the last three, lead, mercury and tin, were left for common uses due to the relative ease of reducing them from their ores. Lead, which is ductile and malleable, was used to produce ornamental and household goods, and in the manufacture of pipes to conduct water. Mercury was in some cases not even considered a metal as it is liquid at room temperature, and its main use was to refine gold. Tin can be considered the earliest strategic commodity, as it was not only scarce and limited to specific regions but also was used to produce bronze when alloyed with copper. The main drawback of lead and mercury is their toxicity, whereas that of tin is the allotropic phase transformation that occurs at low temperatures, which is the origin of the so-called tin pest.
Metallic pieces from the archaeological site of the Mapuche Cemetery of Montaña Mesa de Malargüe, located in the southern region of Mendoza, Argentina, were studied. These pieces were made of raw and alloyed copper and can be described as a notched quadrangular ring, three cones, and the hemisphere of a spherical rattle. This study allows us to glimpse that a developed society was inserted south of the Salado River before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers. The studies consisted of metallographic analyzes with the help of a portable microscope, analyzes of the chemical composition carried out with portable X-ray fluorescence equipment and the evaluation of microhardness. The samples were further characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray energy dispersion spectrometry (EDS). There was evidence of changes in metal working methods, as well as in the use of raw materials, and this can be linked to the processes of social transformation that occurred within Mapuche society. These historic metal pieces were studied as part of the Border Archeometallurgy Project carried out between 2016 and 2017.
Full-text available
Mediums were used by painters in order to modify the texture and drying properties of their paint. During the 19th century, British artists developed a particular medium made of siccative oil, mastic resin and lead acetate trihydrate. The so-called “gumtions” form gel-like materials in a relatively short time, outperforming the existing paint media. This thesis contributes unveiling the chemical processes involved in the formation and ageing of gumtions. As a first step, we focused on mastic resin since it is a key component for the preparation of gumtion. The triterpenic fraction of the resin was identified and quantified using GC and GC/MS. Moreover, we took advantage of Spectroscopic Ellipsometry so as to study the optical properties of varnish thin films as well as their behaviour (swelling) under various atmospheres. Then, we reproduced historical recipes that helped us afterwards to define simplified formulations to deepen the understanding of the chemical interactions between the gel components, made of oleanolic acid (commercial triterpenoid) and a lead compound (acetate or oxide). They were investigated at dierent scales by spectroscopic (FTIR, MASNMR) and supramolecular analyses (Cryo-TEM, SAXS). The use of these complementary techniques gives an overview of the gel’s structure and formation: rapidly, a coordination complex is formed between lead and the carboxylic acid moieties of the triterpenoids, that organizeinto2Dobjectsleadingtothesolid-likebehaviorofthematerial. After few months ageing, we observed the self-assembly of crystalline nanoparticles into lamellar structures, witnessing the dynamic occurring in the material even after gelation.bly of crystalline nanoparticles into lamellar structures, witnessing the dynamic occurring in the material even after gelation.
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