A multi-analytical approach to gold in Ancient Egypt: studies on provenance and corrosion - NMS Research Repository
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A multi-analytical approach to gold in Ancient Egypt: studies on provenance and corrosion

1 June 2015

Abstract

Recent results from a three-year multi-disciplinary project on Ancient Egyptian gold jewellery revealed that items of jewellery from the Middle Kingdom to the New Kingdom were manufactured using a variety of alluvial gold alloys. These alloys cover a wide range of colours and the majority contain Platinum Group Elements inclusions. However, in all the gold foils analysed, these inclusions were found to be absent. In this work a selection of gilded wood and leather items and gold foil fragments, all from the excavations by John Garstang at Abydos (primarily from Middle Kingdom graves), were examined using Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Disperse Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), X-Ray Fluorescence (μXRF), Particle Induced X-Ray Emission (µPIXE) and Double Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (D2XRF). The work allowed us to characterise the composition of the base-alloys and also to reveal the presence of Pt at trace levels, confirming the use of alluvial gold deposits. Corrosion products were also investigated in the foils where surface tarnish was visually observed. Results showed that the differences in the colour of corrosion observed for the foils are related not only to the thickness of the corrosion layer but also to a multi-layer structure containing the various corrosion products.

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