Students from Bedford High School, 45 in all, used the beakers, solutions and instruments of Professor Mary Kate Donais’ chemistry lab to travel through time. Sophomores, juniors and seniors in the high school’s forensics and archaeology classes took a trip to the Syrian mints of the ancient Roman Empire in December, as they cut, dissolved and analyzed an unmarked ancient coin.
The coin was unearthed by Saint Anselm students, who each summer travel to Italy to work at the college’s archaeology site near Orvieto. By analyzing the metal content of coins, archaeologists are able to date them and even determine by their recipe which ancient mint produced them. Professor David George, chair of classics, manages the Orvieto site and spoke to the students about what they could learn from the artifacts.
The collaboration started with a request by Bedford High archaeology teacher Laura Dreyer that Donais speak to her class. Instead, the chemistry professor offered something better: to lead students through an experiment that she had already devised for non-science majors at Saint Anselm.
"I hope the students learned that science can help provide information for many disciplines, even in the social sciences and humanities," she says. "As well, I hope they learned that science can be done by anyone with a little guidance – they shouldn’t be intimidated by it."
Even criminal justice majors might find the results of this experiment relevant. Donais says she is confident that the coin the students analyzed was an ancient forgery, referred to as a foure.