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Countries' postage stamps deliver history of metalcasting.

Archeological finds attest to the importance of the ancient art of casting gold, copper and silver objects. As a means of diffusing information about these findings, some countries have shown the products of this activity on postage stamps.

Gold was the first metal used by man and was exploited on a large scale in ancient Egypt. Egypt issued a stamp depicting a Pharaonic golden vase dating to 1250 BC, along with others showing the gold mask (Fig. 1) of Tut Ankh Amoun from his tomb. The discovery of these treasures in 1922 was a sensational event because it was the first tomb discovered that was not looted by thieves.


Switzerland issued a number of stamps showing archeological finds as well, including one depicting a gold bust of Emperor Marc Aurel (Fig. 2). Colombia issued a series of stamps showing ritual figures from its Gold Museum collection (Fig. 3).


The first use of copper is dated to around 4000 BC; the Bronze Age came a few centuries later when it was discovered that adding tin or tin ore produced a metal of better quality that was easier to cast. The word copper comes from the name of Cyprus, the island that boasted several copper mines which the Romans actively exploited. The stamp in Fig. 4 shows a map of Cyprus, a copper ingot as produced in ancient times, and a sailing boat for shipping the product.


Luxembourg issued a series of stamps showing a Roman bronze mask (Fig. 5). The largest bronze casting, possibly the largest of all time, was the Colossus of Rhodes, which stood more than 100 ft. (30 m) high (Fig. 6). The casting was completed in 290 BC but collapsed into the harbor 65 years later during an earthquake.


Bronze also was used extensively in the civilizations of the Far East. Among the oldest surviving bronze castings are those found in China dating back to the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BC). During this period, some of the most distinctive metal objects ever made bronzes of astonishing complexity--were produced (Fig. 7).


Fathi Habashi, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada
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Title Annotation:SHAKEOUT: In case you didn't know ...
Author:Habashi, Fathi
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Aug 1, 2006
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