Of forming, gilding and intentionality in Pre-Columbian goldwork: analytical characterisation of artefacts from the Museo del Oro, Bogotá
The analytical study of ancient metalwork is a useful strategy to characterise past technologies, but in contrast with other American metalworking traditions this approach has been relatively limited in the context of pre-Columbian Colombia. As a contribution to this emerging research area, this paper presents the results of a compositional and technological study on seven gold alloy artefacts from the collections of Museo del Oro, Bogotá D.C., Colombia, focusing on alloy selection, forming technologies and surface treatments. The artefacts come from four different metalworking regions, and include personal adornments, a votive figure, and an unidentified sheet fragment. Surface imaging and microanalyses were carried out by scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS). X-ray mapping was undertaken to gain further insight into depth and nature of surface treatments and internal microstructures. Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) data was also collected, enabling cross-analytical technique comparisons and the collection of trace element data. The results allow the identification of alloying technologies and forming methods, as well as the characterisation of corrosion products and gilding layers, and discussion of the intentionality of the latter where present. The case studies are discussed in relation to the existing pool of evidence and used to assess the potential for further analyses on the region’s metalwork.