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K. Kris Hirst

The First Gold Working in Peru

By March 31, 2008

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Archaeologists working at the site of Jiskairumoko, an archaic period site located in the Rio Ilave drainage of southern Peru, have identified what they report as the earliest cold hammered gold objects in the American continents. The report on the gold beads appears in an article in the April 1st, 2008 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reconstructed Necklace of Gold and Turquoise Beads from Jiskairumoko, Peru.
A reconstruction of the gold and turquoise beads as a necklace. The central gold bead has a turquoise bead attached through a perforation in its center.
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Mark Aldenderfer, PNAS (Copyright 2008).

The site, research at which is thickly described in the Wikipedia entry by Jiskairumoko researcher Nathan Craig, was occupied between 3600 and 1500 BC, spanning the late to terminal Archaic and early Formative periods. Three styles of houses have been identified at Jiskairumoko: pithouses, semi-subterranean and above-ground structures. Evidence indicates that the residents were first mobile hunter-gatherers, who eventually transitioned to settled life.

Cold-Hammered Gold Bead, Jiskairumoko (Peru)
Details of bead 5 fabrication. (Upper) Bead 5 showing perforation; note the large hammer marks to the left of the perforation. (Lower) Bead 5 showing the folding of the hammered gold.
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Mark Aldenderfer, PNAS (Copyright 2008).

The gold recovered at Jiskairumoko was discovered within a burial dated between 2155-1936 (calendar years) BC, as part of a gold and turquoise necklace, shown in the illustration. The burial was of the mixed bones of an elderly adult and a juvenile (4-6 years old). The beads were discovered near the base of the adult cranium close to the jawbone.

The gold beads at Jiskairumoko are thick and cylindrical, ranging in size from 11.5-29 millimeters in length and between .5 and 1 millimeter in thickness. Researchers believe that quartz-vein native gold nuggets were flattened with a stone hammer, and then carefully bent or hammered around a cylindrical object.

Sources

Aldenderfer, Mark, Nathan M. Craig, Robert J. Speakman, and Rachel Popelka-Filcoff 2008 Four-thousand-year-old year old gold artifacts from the Lake Titicaca basin, southern Peru. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (13):5002-5005. Open Access Article--sadly, this is not, as I thought, open source, but is available for download.

Craig, Nathan. 2000 Real-Time GIS Construction and Digital Data Recording of the Jiskairumoko Excavation, Peru. SAA Bulletin 18 (article online)

Craig, Nathan (primary author). 2007. Jiskairumoro. Entry on Wikipedia, dated December 2007.

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