The First Documented Prehistoric Gold-Copper Alloy Artefact from the West Indies

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Intensive excavations at Maisabel, a large ceramic-age site on the north coast of Puerto Rico, revealed a series of occupations spanning 12 centuries, from roughly 100 BC to AD 1200. In one of the early deposits, dating to the Hacienda Grande period, a small fragment of metal was recovered. Analysis by energy dispersive spectrometry revealed that the metal artefact is an alloy of gold and copper, with an overall weight composition of roughly 55% copper, 5% silver and 40% gold. This combination of elements is a product of smelting and is not a naturally occurring alloy. Objects made from gold-copper alloys were widely recorded in the ethnohistoric reports on the Taino Indians at Contact. However, prior to the Maisabel project, not one occurrence of this alloy has been reported from an archaeological context in the West Indies.



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