Combining X-ray Fluorescence and Monte Carlo Simulation Methods to Differentiate between Tumbaga and Gold-Alloy or Gildings

Antonio Brunetti, Marta Porcaro, Angel Bustamante, Giovanni Stegel, Roberto Cesareo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Depleted metals have been produced since many centuries ago. Probably the most famous examples from ancient times are the so-called Tumbaga gold artifacts, whose production was introduced by the pre-Colombian civilizations. Tumbaga-like structures have been identified also in modern nanotechnological materials. In both cases, but specially for the ancient Tumbaga, due to their preciousness, their characterization should be obtained by non-destructive analysis. Several analytical protocols have been developed, some of them non-destructive, such as those based on X-ray Fluorescence, but the results obtained do not always allow for a reliable identification of Tumbaga with respect to gilding or single alloy samples. Besides the capability to distinguish between different structures of the sample, it is also important to obtain a quantitative estimation of its composition. In order to meet this demand, a new approach based on X-ray Fluorescence coupled to Monte Carlo simulations is proposed. It allows one to distinguish easily between the three manufacturing techniques and to quantify the composition of the sample without any destructive sampling. It constitutes a new tool for the study of complex alloy structures. The protocol is applied here to some ancient Tumbaga gold samples and is described in detail, comparing the results to those obtained with other techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4452
Issue number13
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by Regione Autonoma della Sardegna, F. S. C. “SVILUPPO DI UNA METODOLOGIA SPETTROSCOPICA INTEGRATA E INNOVATIVA PER LA CARATTERIZ-ZAZIONE DI BRONZI ANTICHI”–RASSR79938, CUP:J81G17000140002. FAR 2019 and 2020.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • depletion
  • gradient
  • multilayer
  • Tumbaga
  • XRF


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