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Gold and silver technological traditions in San Pedro de Atacama (northern Chile), during the Middle Period (AD 400-1000)

Plaza, Maria; (2018) Gold and silver technological traditions in San Pedro de Atacama (northern Chile), during the Middle Period (AD 400-1000). Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This project investigates gold and silver technologies in San Pedro de Atacama (northern Chile), a strategic node in the South Central Andes during the Middle Period (AD 400-1000). Nearly 200 gold and silver personal ornaments and ritual objects have been recovered as grave goods from cemeteries at San Pedro dated to this period. The aim of this research is to reconstruct the biographies of 140 gold and silver objects made of hammered sheets, considering their production, use and particular contexts to understand their technology and role within the San Pedro society. This research is driven by the conceptual frameworks of chaîne opératoire and artefact life-histories, and supported by the materials science analyses of finished objects. The analytical methods employed include portable x-ray fluorescence, scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, proton-induced X-ray emission, optical microscopy and macroscopic observations with a digital microscope to determine the alloy compositions, manufacturing techniques and technical sequences. The results identify a heterogeneous assemblage where compositions, techniques and designs are varied, suggesting that the objects were most likely imported from different areas of the South Central Andes, such as Tiwanaku and northwest Argentina. Most importantly, evidence of two local technological traditions is documented: 1) a small-scale goldwork production and 2) a tradition of modifying and reusing imported objects, adapting them to local needs. These findings reveal different patterns in the material selection, transformation and further modification of the artefacts during their lives, challenging traditional assumptions that gold in San Pedro came exclusively from Tiwanaku. The consumption of gold items show a differential distribution where some individuals were buried with gold or silver. The distribution of these items and the type of objects made in noble metals, indicate that gold in particular, embodied multiple levels of meaning that were used both to a) legitimise the social status of particular ayllus, and also to b) materialise long-distance social relationships among “common” people.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Gold and silver technological traditions in San Pedro de Atacama (northern Chile), during the Middle Period (AD 400-1000)
Event: UCL
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10064200
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