Smithsonian Institute, Catalogue No. 134898, Dept. of Anthropology

Ancient or modern? Excavators found this bracelet and another beneath the same skull that covered the inscribed stone. Originally classified as copper, the bracelets proved to be heavily-leaded yellow brass (copper alloyed with about 27 percent zinc and 3.3 percent lead) when finally tested in 1970. This composition branded the bracelets as modern trade goods according to the state of knowledge at the time, thereby temporarily discrediting the ancient origin of the inscription. Subsequent discoveries about the composition of ancient brass, however, reopened the question. Brass of virtually the same composition was produced in the eastern Mediterranean primarily from 45 B.C. through 200 A.D. Therefore, although the bracelets could be modern, they could equally well be ancient.

The way in which the bracelets were crafted favors an ancient origin, because they do not resemble most modern trade goods, which were usually drawn or cast. Instead, each of the Bat Creek bracelets was wrought by folding a strip of metal lengthwise to produce a circular cross section and then bending it into a c-shape, leaving a seam and a narrow hollow core. In this photo, the seam is most visible on the upper left side.