Pre-Hispanic gold pieces of an enigmatic archaeological finding in Medellín, Colombia: A glance at an archaeometric analysis

J. Fabián-Salvador, J. P. Diez, R. Aristizabal, S. Enzo, O. Arnache

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study analysed pre-Hispanic gold objects found within a surprising archaeological finding of a structure that likely served as a funeral pyre in Medellín, Colombia. 14C analyses of the site's organic materials dated the structure to the fifth century ce. The metal objects were subjected to X-ray diffraction (XRD), energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF), scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray (SEM-EDX), density measurement by the Archimedes method, and metallographic analysis. The measurements by EDXRF and SEM-EDX showed that the pieces were composed mostly gold and silver. The XRD results indicated that the microstructure of the objects corresponded to a single phase of gold and silver. The images obtained by the metallographic microscope showed equiaxial grains with some twins, a structure consistent with annealed metals. The different colours observed correspond to different grain orientations. Pre-Hispanic objects from a second archaeological site in the municipality of Amalfi (Department of Antioquia) were also analysed for comparative purposes. The results showed that the gold objects were not subjected to any alloying process, but were instead manipulated in their original form (native gold). The shape of the objects and their microstructural results suggested that the pieces were manufactured by casting, mechanical deformation and then annealing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1182-1194
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • Aburrá Valley
  • ancient metallurgical technologies
  • funeral pyre
  • metallography
  • pre-Hispanic gold


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