X-Ray Digital Radiography to Study Gold–Silver Nose Decorations from the Moche Tomb of the Lady of Cao

  • Soraia R. AzeredoEmail author
  • Roberto Cesareo
  • Regulo Franco Jordan
  • Arabel Fernandez
  • Angel Bustamante
  • Ricardo T. Lopes


In the present study nose decorations from the tomb of the ‘Lady of Cao’, a mummified Moche woman dated around third–fourth century AD, were analyzed by a portable X-ray digital radiography (XDR) system. The Moche civilization flourished along the north coast of present-day Peru, between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, approximately between 100 and 600 AD. The Moche were very sophisticated artisans and metal smiths, so that they are considered the finest producers of jewels and artifacts of the region. Their metalworking ability was impressively demonstrated by the excavations of the tomb of the ‘Lady of Cao’, discovered by Regulo Franco in 2005. More than 100 beautiful jewels were found in this tomb, among them about 40 nose decorations composed of a combination of gold and silver sheets. Radiographs of several of them were carried out, with the aim to evaluate the gold–silver joining process, to check the homogeneity of the alloy and to quantify the thickness of the sheets. The XDR system consisted of a mini X-ray tube and of a digital X-ray flat panel. The radiographic images of the nose decorations revealed details of the manufacturing process and of the Au–Ag junction.


Radiography Moche nose decorations Gold–silver joins Sheets thickness 



Many thanks to Luciano Mastrolorenzi, eminent goldsmith and sculptor, for experimentally simulating different gold-silver joining methods and for stimulating discussions. This work was partially supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, CNPq, (Process Number 154293/2016-4, Brazil), and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ).


  1. 1.
    Cesareo, R., et al.: Analysis of the spectacular gold and silver from the Moche tomb ‘Señora de Cao’. X-Ray Spectrom. 45, 138–154 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alva, W.: SIPAN, Descrubrimiento y Investigation. Lima, Quebecor World Peru (2004)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Alva, W., Donnan, C.B.: The Royal Tomb of Sipán. Fowler Museum of Cultural history, University of California, Los Angeles (1993)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Franco Jordan, R.: Señores de los Reinos de la Luna. In: Makowski, K. (ed.). Banco de Crédito del Peru, Lima (2008)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Franco Jordan, R.: Los Secretos de la Huaca Cao Viejo. Fundacion Wiese y Petrolera Transoceanica S.A, Lima (2009)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Franco Jordan, R.: Pour la Science. France, Paris (2010)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Franco Jordan, R.: La Dama de Cao. In: Investigacion y Ciencia, pp. 68–74 (2011)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lima, S.C., et al.: Pre-hispanic ceramics analyzed using PIXE and radiographic techniques. Nucl. Instrum. Methods Phys. Res. B 269, 3025–3031 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Calza, C., et al.: Analysis of sculptures using XRF and X-ray radiography. Radiat. Phys. Chem. 116, 326–331 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Petaros, A., et al.: Mummified remains from the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, Croatia e Reviewing peculiarities and limitations of human and non-human radiological identification and analysis in mummified remains. J. Forensic Leg. Med. 35, 54–61 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cuevas, A.M., Gravie, H.P.: Portable energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence and X-ray diffraction and radiography system for archaeometry. Nucl. Instrum. Methods Phys. Res. A 633, 72–78 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Perea, A., et al.: Pre-Hispanic goldwork technology, the Quimbaya Treasure. J. Archaeol. Sci. 40, 2326–2334 (2013)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Figueiredo, E., et al.: Characterization of Late Bronze Age large size shield nails by EDXRF, micro-EDXRF and X-ray digital radiography. Appl. Radiat. Isot. 69, 1205–1211 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Dewanckele, J., et al.: Neutron radiography and X-ray computed tomography for quantifying weathering and water up take processes inside porous limestone used a building material. Mater. Charact. 88, 86–99 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Mannes, D., et al.: Combined neutron and X-ray imaging for non-invasive investigations of cultural heritage objects. Phys. Procedia 69, 653–660 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Schorsch, D.: Silver-and-gold Moche Artifacts from Loma Negra, Peru. Metrop. Mus. J. 33, 109–136 (1998)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Farman, A.G., Farman, T.T.: A comparison of 18 different X-ray detectors currently used in dentistry. Oral Surg. Oral Med. Oral Pathol. Oral Radiol. Endod. 99(4), 485–489 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    ASTM E2002: Standard Practice for Determining Total Image Unsharpness and Basic Spatial Resolution in Radiography and Radioscopy (2015)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Cesareo, R., et al.: Radiography and transmission measurements on gold and silver from the moche tomb “Señora de Cao”. Radiol. Diagn. Imaging 1, 1–6 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Marques, V.M.F., Johnston, C., Grant, P.S.: Microstructural evolution at Cu/Sn-Ag-Cu/Cu and Cu/Sn-Ag-Cu/Ni-Au ball grid array interfaces during thermal ageing. J. Alloys Compd. 613, 387–394 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hu, L., Xue, Y., Shi, F.: Intermetallic formation and mechanical properties of Ni-Ti diffusion couples. Mater. Des. 130, 175–182 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Soraia R. Azeredo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Roberto Cesareo
    • 3
  • Regulo Franco Jordan
    • 4
  • Arabel Fernandez
    • 4
  • Angel Bustamante
    • 5
  • Ricardo T. Lopes
    • 2
  1. 1.Scholarship from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, CNPqBrasíliaBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratório de Instrumentação Nuclear, PEN/COPPE/UFRJRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.University di SassariSassariItaly
  4. 4.Museo Señora de Cao and Fundacion WieseTrujilloPeru
  5. 5.Universidad Nacional Mayor de San MarcosLimaPeru

Personalised recommendations