Institute of Archaeology

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Prehistoric goldwork of Colombia under the microscope

12 December 2012

Musica raft (By Andrew Bertram (World66) [CC-BY-SA-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Marcos Martinón-Torres was invited to talk about his research on Muisca goldwork at a special event at the University of Castilla La Mancha in Spain to mark the 200th anniversary of Colombia's independence.

Marcos' invited paper entitled "The science of art: prehistoric goldwork of Colombia under the microscope" was presented to some 800 people and was one of several talks organised by the University to mark the 200th anniversary of Colombia’s independence, and which were attended by the University Senior Management Team as well as distinguished speakers and guests from Colombia and hundreds of students.

Marcos' talk focused on how instrumental techniques of analyses can be used to reveal information about the goldworking technology that, in turn, are relevant to understand the sociocultural role of gold among Prehispanic societies – a role that is very different from our current appreciation of this metal.

Marcos also presented some findings of the British Academy-funded project on Muisca goldwork carried out jointly with Maria Alicia Uribe, Director of the Gold Museum in Bogotá. The talk included the first presentation of their recent study of the Muisca raft, one of the most iconic artefacts of Colombian heritage since its discovery in 1969, because of its association to the legendary El Dorado. 

This collaborative research is the first systematic and scientific study of this item, and it will form the core of a British-Canadian film due to be broadcast in a few months.

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