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date: 25 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses the prehistory and long evolution of the ancient Greek science of materials, their properties and transformation. The ancient Greek science of materials, their properties and transformation, came to be called alchemy. Models and procedures focused on the production or imitation of valuable substances, especially silver metal, purple dye, and gems. Ancient materials science mastered many effective techniques, and the earlier models of the properties and transformations of materials were consonant with models of the same eras purporting to explain disease, living beings, or the cosmos. What later became more precise and focused remains here a collection of related practices and goals, elements from which were later compounded and fused into what became known as “alchemy.” Much of Greco-Roman alchemy was no delusion or deception: it was the oldest, broadest, and most accomplished of the ancient sciences, deserving a place in scholarship equal to “astronomy” and “medicine.”

Keywords: bronze, ceramics, dyes, elements, fermentation, gems, glass, plaster, smelting, Theophrastus, transmutation

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