Bell Beaker Gold Foils from Perdigões (Southern Portugal) – Manufacture and Use

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Several fragments of gold foils were recovered in a Bell Beaker context of Tomb 2 of Perdigões (Southern Portugal) dated to the third quarter of the 3rd millennium BC. Most of the gold foils, having thicknesses between 40 and 200!m, were found in a very fragmentary state and present a shiny golden obverse while the reverse is invariably dull, suggesting that these gold foils were used attached to some sort of a fabric backing. EDXRF and !-PIXE analysis were used to determine the elemental composition of the gold ornaments. Results point to a rather pure native gold used in their manufacture, Ag contents ranging from 0.5% to 4.9% while Cu content is less than 0.08%. The microstructure of the gold foils was studied using Optical Microscopy (OM). Twinned grains indicate that several cycles of hammering followed by annealing took place to obtain the foils. Inclusions observed by OM were analyzed by SEM-EDS allowing the identification of Si and O, also suggesting the use of native gold in the manufacture of these jewels. In order to explain the dull reverse surfaces of the foils, additional chemical analysis by !-FTIR were performed on the material scraped from the surfaces of two foils. The spectra allowed the identification of kaolinite, traces of calcium carbonate and an organic material, a wax, i.e. probably a mixture of clay and bees wax. As far as we know, this is the first time that the material applied for the attachment of such thin foils to a fabric backing has been identified.
Original languageUnknown
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 39th International Symposium for Archaeometry
Place of PublicationLeuven, Belgium
PublisherCentre for Archaeological Sciences, KU Leuven
ISBN (Print)978-94-6165-120-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Event39th International Symposium on Archaeometry: “50 years of ISA” -
Duration: 1 Jan 2012 → …


Conference39th International Symposium on Archaeometry: “50 years of ISA”
Period1/01/12 → …

Cite this