Fingerprints in Gold
According to present knowledge the general use of metallurgy began with the production of gold ornaments that flourished in the Chavín culture of northern Peru in the first half of the first millennium B.C. In the same period metal began to be worked in the Paracas culture on the Peruvian south coast. In order to determine the provenance of the gold, 169 archaeological finds (including looted objects) of the Chavín, Paracas and Nasca cultures and 68 gold deposits were sampled in Peru to perform elemental analysis using LA-ICP-MS. This technique has already been applied for gold provenance studies, but the methodology was further developed involving liquid calibration and solid calibration using new solid gold reference materials. First results show a clear difference between north Peruvian gold objects generally very rich in platinum metals and objects from the south coast with low PGE concentrations. In both cultures, Paracas and Nasca, at least two gold types could be identified, of which the most frequent one seems to represent the local gold available in the Ica-Nasca region. Moreover, the presence of north Peruvian gold is attested in a Paracas gold sheet and a late Nasca head ornament that are chemically similar to objects from the north coast, e.g. from sites such as Morro Eten or Virú. Furthermore new results on alloying with copper and surface gilding at this early stage of metallurgy in south Peru were obtained.
KeywordsGold Deposit Platinum Group Element Native Gold Trace Element Pattern Gold Sample
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