Depletion gilding, innovation and life-histories: The changing colours of Nahuange metalwork
The technique of depletion gilding is well evidenced in pre-Columbian Andean gold work. Artefacts from the Nahuange period in Colombia (c. AD 100-1000) were subject to metallographic, chemical and microscopic analyses to provide regional comparative data on metalworking traditions. Results suggest that depletion gilding may have been an accidental discovery and, contrary to widespread assumptions, not always a desirable feature. This research illustrates how technological innovation may not always be immediately adopted, and considers how the life-history of gold artefacts may affect their appearance and microstructure. It also offers directions for future studies of depletion gilding elsewhere.