Early copper metallurgy in Northern Chile

  • Blanca Maldonado | bem171@gmail.com Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum Archäometrie, Mannheim, Germany.
  • Thilo Rehren Institute of Archaeology, University College London, United Kingdom.
  • Ernst Pernicka Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum Archäometrie, Mannheim, Germany.
  • Lautaro Núñez Universidad Católica del Norte, Antofagasta, Chile.
  • Alexander Leibbrandt Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile - CODELCO, Santiago, Chile.


The Central Andean region of South America has a long tradition of mining and metallurgy. Such activities were fundamental to the economic, socio-political and ideological dynamics of the pre-Columbian cultures that inhabited this area. In spite of their importance, few archaeological investigations of metallurgy have been carried out in the Central Andes in general, and in current Chilean territory in particular. The present project investigates archaeometallurgical sites in northern Chile using scientific analysis, as a first step towards a large-scale map of prehistoric copper production and exchange across South America. This research involves documentation and sampling of already excavated archaeological materials from a number of copper-producing sites located in the Atacama District. Preliminary results of XRF analysis of artefacts from the collection of the R. P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum, San Pedro de Atacama, have been obtained and enabled us to characterise the different elements present in the metal objects. These results might provide information on the nature of the raw materials used.



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Chile, pre-Columbian, archaeometallurgy, copper, scientific analysis
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How to Cite
Maldonado, B., Rehren, T., Pernicka, E., Núñez, L., & Leibbrandt, A. (2013). Early copper metallurgy in Northern Chile. Open Journal of Archaeometry, 1(1), e26. https://doi.org/10.4081/arc.2013.e26