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The hypothesis of the origin of the sorcerer Melchior and the alloy of the same name

© Форпост Северо-Запад

The patent for melchior - an alloy of copper and nickel - was received by the French in 1827. The name was later given to it by the Germans. They caught the consonance in the pronunciation of the names of the inventors Mayo and Saurier with the name of the Evangelical sorcerer. It is customary to give primacy in obtaining "cheap silver" to the Chinese. Historians have their ancient text about the court foundry master Li Lyan Ying who mistakenly fused the aforementioned components and was able to appreciate the result. However, the British Museum exhibits a Bactrian coin from 235 with a chemical composition similar to that of the classic modern melchior - 78% copper and 20% nickel, unlike the Chinese.

таблица менделеева Горный музей
© Форпост Северо-Запад

The metallurgists of ancient Bactria, naturally, could not have secured their alloy formulation in time. By the 15th century, when the Republic of Venice adopted the world's first patent law, this state had long since ceased to exist. The name of small railway station near Termez city in the south of Uzbekistan reminds us of it nowadays. Nowadays Termez officially is 2500 years old, but practically in its bounds there is a site of ancient settlement, much more ancient. During the Indus and the Ancient Babylonian civilization, the first wheat in the world was grown in Bactria, an oasis on the banks of the Amu Darya, and they already knew how to build apartment buildings.

It is possible that Melchior, the eldest of the three wise men, came from these places. The first mention of him appeared in the early Middle Ages. The Benedictine monk and Latin scholar Beda the Venerable (672 - 735) wrote of the Persian descent of the gray-haired and long-bearded elder Melchior. The Bactrians were known to be Iranian-speaking. Before the conquest by the Greeks, their country was part of the Achaemenid Empire.

волхв Мельхиор
© Michael Payne, / Мельхиор с дарами младенцу Иисусу, скульптурная группа

In addition, the samples of gold ornaments found by archaeologists in Bactria are very similar to the gifts of the Magi to the Infant Jesus. It is known that Belshazzar, Caspar and Melchior brought patterned gold plates decorated with spheres of incense and smyrna to the nativity scene. Today these relics are preserved in the monastery of St. Paul on Athos. Similar artistic items are found among the finds of the Soviet-Afghan expedition of Viktor Sarianidi at the ancient settlement of Tillya Tepe on the territory of Afghanistan. In 1978 archaeologists in six ancient tombs unearthed about 20 thousand pieces of gold.

The value of this collection is comparable only to the artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun. In 1979, because of the outbreak of war between the Afghan government and the Soviet limited contingent with the Mujahideen had to stop excavations. The collection was placed in the National Museum of Afghanistan. In 1989 the Soviet troops returned home, and for security reasons the Kabul authorities moved the collection to the storehouse of their Central Bank. In the early 2000's it was exhibited around the world, but in January 2021, Bactria gold, as well as the entire gold reserve of the country was moved to the United States.

© Andre Klimke,

Let's go back to evangelical times. If the fine work of Bactria's jewelers was perfectly suited as a gift to the newborn messiah from the "three kings," then the copper-nickel alloy was ideal for minting small coins. Melchior is notable for its low production cost, resistance to corrosion, and moreover, it is harder than silver. Bactrian money at the dawn of our era was in circulation not only in the Middle East but also in Europe. The ancient Greek historians Herodotus, Ctesias and Xenophonte wrote about trade with rich Bactria and the ingenious craftsmen of this country.

Today, the alloy is widely used in the manufacture of cutlery, crockery, pipe fittings, heat exchangers, medical instruments, and in shipbuilding.

© Форпост Северо-Запад