Silver - From metal to coins

Horizon, the EU Research & Innovation Magazine, focuses on the project led by Francis Albarède, recipient of an ERC Advanced grant in 2016.

In 2016 Francis Albarède, Professor Emeritus of Geochemistry at ENS de Lyon, was awarded an ERC advanced grant for his SILVER: Isotopes and the Rise of Money project. By studying the composition of silver coins from the Ancient times (until 250 A.D.), this project examines the emergence of money and the circulation of silver, which was the basis of to the everyday economy at the time.

This work, which combines geochemistry, history, economics and geography, is the subject of an article in Horizon, he European Union Research & Innovation Magazine. As the end of the ERC Advanced grant, scheduled for March 2024, approaches, Francis Albarède argues that "[he believe] silver was crucial in the invention of democracy because it helped people to be heard and understood". Lead and silver isotope analysis indeed suggests that the minting of silver into coins in the Mediterranean area paved the way for the formation of democracies in the 5th century A.D. Francis Albarède and his team have already published some fifteen scientific papers on the subject, and three more are expected by the end of the project.

To discover in the article "Silver reveals luxury tastes of Vikings and trade talents of ancient Greeks", that looks at the SILVER project... and the homonymous SILVER project, another recipient of an ERC (Starting) grant in 2018.
Silver, this precious metal with which our history has been written.

Geochemist and Professor Emeritus at ENS de Lyon, Francis Albarède was awarded the CNRS silver medal in 1988. Among his many interests, his work focuses on the principles of geochemistry and the study of stable metal isotopes in historical and archaeological artifacts. He was elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 2022.

View his biography

SILVER aims to study the composition of silver coins from the ancient worlds (Greek and Roman) up to 250 AD, thanks to the cutting-edge technologies used daily by geochemist. It was through silver that wealth circulated, and the study of this circulation is the subject of the project.

More about SILVER