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Metallurgy in pre-Columbian America
Metallurgy in pre-Columbian America is the extraction, purification and alloying of metals and metal crafting by Indigenous peoples of the Americas prior to European contact in the late 15th century. Indigenous Americans have been using native metals from ancient times, with recent finds of gold artifacts in the Andean region dated to 2155–1936 BCE,  and North American copper finds dated to approximately 5000 BCE.  The metal would have been found in nature without need for smelting, and shaped into the desired form using hot and cold hammering without chemical alteration or alloying. To date "no one has found evidence that points to the use of melting, smelting and casting in prehistoric eastern North America."  In South America the case is quite different. Indigenous South Americans had full metallurgy with smelting and various metals being purposely alloyed. Metallurgy in Mesoamerica and Western Mexico may have developed following contact with South America through Ecuadorian marine traders. 
From wax to metal: goldmaking techniques of the ancient Colombians - History
PANAMA'S GOLDEN HUACAS
The Panama Canal Review . . . Fall 1973
Click for larger image
A clue to the mysteries of a vanished people who inhabited Panama during pre-Colombian times is found in the "golden huacas," the precious artifacts which were buried with them 1,000 years ago. These people left no written history. But the objects they made -- jewelry, weapons, tools and ornaments- give a clue to their great culture and the skill of their artisans.
In these archeological finds lies the history of a great nation obscured by time. Many facts are known, but even they change according to the books read or experts consulted. What is a huaca? Is a huaca a tomb and a huaco an artifact recoverd from the tomb? Or is it the other way around? Were huacas ornaments, offerings to the gods, good luck charms, battle armor, coats of arms? Is the word itself spelled huacal or guacal or huaca or guaca? It matters little. Here in Panama, "huacas" have come to mean the artifacts removed from the graves of the Indian tribes who prospered on the rich and lovely lands of the Isthmus until the Spaniards came to plunder, kill and drive them from their homes.
The golden huaca has traveled a long journey over many lands. It was created by the hands of the skilled Caribbean goldsmith who fashioned a breast ornament for a warrior and a strand of gold beads for his lady. Placed in the tomb with other items chosen to accompany him on his journey to another life, the gold ornaments remained sunbright for hundreds of years.
Today, a replica of the golden huaca is a small part of pre-Colombian history that can be worn around the neck or on the ears. Satisfying the current craving for the unique and exotic, huacas are growning in popularity as the gift that everyone wants to own or to give. Fashioned into pendants, bracelets, earrings, even wedding rings - by jewelers in Panama and other countries of Central and South America - they are favored as gifts and cherished as souvenirs.
And the spell of the huaca is such that it never becomes just a piece of jewelry. Always its owner is aware of its inpenetrable secrets . of the stories it would tell if it could.
In the late 1920's, following floods that changed the river's course, natives traveling along the Rio Grande de Cocle, just 100 miles from the Canal Zone, had one of modern man's earliest glimpses of this reminder of Panama's ancient civilization. A glimmer that proved to be the golden treasure of a forgotten people that had been buried with their dead. The gold ornaments the natives uncovered, along with bone fragments and pottery, made thier way from hand to hand until they arrived in a PanamaCity antique shops, and eventually aroused the curiosity of archeologists around the world.
Following the accidental discovery and the verification of its importance, an expedition, led by the famed archeologist Samuel K. Lothrop, was sent to the site by the Peabody Museum of Harvard University. In one of his reports, Dr. Lothrop tells of the complex story that began to unfold when, while digging beneath the top layer of pasture land, he brought to light signs of ancient habitation. One grave, only 12 feet by 14 feet in size, yielded more than 2,000 objects. Ninety-six of these were gold. There were pendants set with semiprecious stones, ornamental breast plates, necklaces of thousands of beads, heavily embossed gold disks, wrist and ankle cuffs, and earrings.
His studies during this and later expeditions to Cocle Province convinced Dr. Lothrop that the "civilization represented by these finds belonged to tribes practically unknown today . . . rich and industrious peoples, skilled in working clay, stone and metals."
The gold artifacts uncovered in these ancient sites and at others in the provinces of Chiriqui and Veraguas, and also at Venado Beach in the Canal Zone, are displayed in the Panama Museum and in many museums in the United States and Europe - a silent tribute to the master craftsmen who reached a pinnacle of artistry more than 1,000 years ago in Panama.
Fashioned by a curious technique, the gold figures portray stylized human and animal forms or a combination of the two. There are snakes with two legs, men with crocodile heads, and figures with a human head and shoulders attached to the body of a snake, with the projecting eyes of a crab, and the recurring images of the alligator and eagle which many believe have religious significance.
There is agreement among archeologists that the superb gold relics interred in the ancient graves reperesent high aesthetic and technical achievement, and that the Cocle goldsmiths were among the few in ancient America sufficiently skilled to make hollow castings. There agreement ends. No one seems sure how they were able to cast these fabulous artifacts.
In a 1,200-year-old grave of a Carib Indian goldsmith, Neville Harte, one of the foremost local experts on the golden huaca, believes he found the ancient melting secret of what is called the lost-wax method of casting. Harte a retired employee of the U.S. Army, has devoted weekends and vacations in search of pre-Colombian history. Since 1968 when he retired, he has devoted most of his time to the study of the golden huacas. After finding the goldsmith's grave, he spent 3 years on a successful project to reproduce these golden relics using the techniques he believes the ancient Carib craftsmen used to produce the originals, and another 17 years to perfect his methods. Only recently has he created what he considers satisfactory reproductions.
In reproducing replicas of the original huacas, Harte makes a wax model of the object he will cast in precious metal. He adds long, thin threads of wax as decorative details, and affixes a cone of wax to the model's base which will serve as a funnel-shpaed pouring channel for the molten metal. When the wax model is complete, he covers it with powdered charcoal to insure a smooth casting surface. Then the model is covered with an outer shell made of a mixture of moist clay and crushed charcoal. After the outer shell dries, the entire assembly is fired to strengthen the mold and burn out the wax to leave a cavity of the same shape as the now-lost wax model. The mold is then brought to red heat and the molten metal poured in. When the metal solidifies, the mold is broken away to expose the golden huaca. Many people have the idea that the lost-wax process means the process was lost and rediscovered. Rather it simply means that the wax is lost in the process.
Presented by CZBrats
November 29, 1998
Tumbaga was used in pre-Columbian times from Mesoamerica to Peru and Chile as a generic term for any combination of gold and copper. It could range from 95% copper to 95% gold, although tumbaga or guanin gold was usually made by adding 10 to 30% copper to gold. Tumbaga usually contains 5 to 10% silver as well, which occurred naturally in the gold and wasn’t intentionally added.
The amount of gold used in tumbaga depended on the metal’s availability. Objects from gold-rich areas like Calima and Tolima in Colombia, for instance, contained purer gold while most surviving pieces from the Muisca and Tairona regions were smaller, less pure and depended on gilding for appearance.
There were several reasons tumbaga was popular. A primary one is that 70% gold/30%copper will melt at around 800 C., much lower than gold or copper separately. That’s important because melts were done in large clay pots using a team of men huffing on blowpipes. Molten metal then flowed from a hole in the bottom of the vessel into open molds made from stone or clay. These molds have been found archaeologically from Mexico to Chile.
Tumbaga Pectoral, Quimbaya Culture, 300-1600 AD, Antiquia, Colombia.
Now weigh out the investment. Investment contains silica - so you should wear a dust mask if you don't have exhaust. I got this cute blue scale for very cheap - and its blue! no need to spend big bucks on an expensive scale - it just needs to work.
Set the timer for 8 minutes. This is the longest that your investment should be disturbed. Once it starts setting up, you don't want to be messing with it. I start the timer and then pour the investment in to the water. Mix for 3 minutes - right when it turns to 5 min, its time to vacuum.
Ancient Colombian goldmaking
Mask with Nose Ornament, c. 500 B.C.E.–1600 C.E., gold alloy, 15.5 x 18 cm, Quimbaya © The Trustees of the British Museum. This spectacular hammered mask with a dangling nose ornament would probably have been placed on top of the face of a funerary bundle – the wrapped body of the deceased—transforming him into an ancestor and semi-divine figure.
For centuries Europeans were dazzled by the legend of a lost city of gold in South America. The truth behind this myth is fascinating. El Dorado–literally “the golden one”–actually refers to the ritual that took place at Lake Guatavita, near modern Bogotá. The newly elected leader, covered in powdered gold, dived into the lake and emerged as the new chief of the Muisca people who lived in the central highlands of present-day Colombia’s Eastern Range.
The Muisca, Quimbaya, Calima, Tairona, Tolima and Zenú chiefdoms in ancient Colombia used gold to fashion some of the most visually dramatic and sophisticated works of art found anywhere in the Americas before European contact. Although gold was not valued as currency in pre-Hispanic Colombia, it had great symbolic meaning. It was one way the elite could publicly assert their rank and semi-divine status, both in life and in death.
More than just gold
Objects that seem at first glance made of gold are more complex and are in fact made of metal alloys. In most instances they combine, in different degrees, gold, some natural occurring silver, and copper, a combination known as tumbaga. These metals were symbolically charged in pre-Hispanic times, being associated with the sun and the moon respectively. Their combination produced a microcosm, a balance between opposites in the rendering of each object.
Anthropomorphic Bat Pectoral, 900–1600 C.E., gold alloy, Tairona © Museo del Oro—Banco de la República, Colombia
The creation of alloys also allowed for differences in color, ranging from reddish to golden tones. Each object had its own particular color, shine and finish thanks to the mastery and skills of the artists that produced them. Some even show contrasting colors in the same object, producing beautiful patterns and details.
Hammering and casting
Small ingots of tumbaga, in the shape of round buttons, were crafted into unique objects either by hammering or casting them (or by a combination of both techniques). Ancient Colombian artists mastered both techniques to an unprecedented degree, creating exceptional works of art.
Hammering metal was a delicate process. Metal becomes easily brittle when hammered and they have to be repeatedly cooled and dipped in water before the final form is achieved. The thin sheets of gold were then cut, decorated (for example by repoussé) or joined by clipping or folding several sheets together.
Hands up close (detail), Seated Female Poporo, c. 500 B.C.E. – 700 C.E. Early Quimbaya, tumbaga (gold alloy), Colombia © The Trustees of the British Museum. This lime-flask was cast by the lost-wax method. The head, lower legs and stool were cast separately and then soldered to the body. Flasks held lime obtained from burning and grinding seashells. The alkaline lime was chewed with coca leaves to release their active stimulant and enhance clear, contemplative thinking.
However, it was the casting of metals that was developed most in ancient Colombia. Using the lost wax technique, artist modeled the final piece they wanted to achieve in beeswax (from stingless bees). Once the wax figure was finished it was covered in fine clay and charcoal, leaving pouring channels. The whole mould was fired and the melted wax poured out. Its place would be taken by molten metal, which cooled slowly as it solidified inside the mould. The mould was then broken and the final metal piece polished and finished.
Ancient Colombian artists even created hollow objects following this technique, for example flasks and containers. Great skill was needed to produce them. The figure was modeled in clay and charcoal, and a thin layer of wax was applied to cover the final result. Over this another layer of clay would be added, and wooden pegs were inserted to fix the inner mould to the outer one to keep them in place when the wax melted. Controlling the flow of the metal to every single detail of the piece, its slow solidification, and then freeing the figure without damaging it was challenge that could only be achieved by the most experienced hands.
Recent excavations in Middle Ganga Valley done by archaeologist Rakesh Tewari show iron working in India may have begun as early as 1800 BCE.  Archaeological sites in India, such as Malhar, Dadupur, Raja Nala Ka Tila and Lahuradewa in the state of Uttar Pradesh show iron implements in the period between 1800 BCE - 1200 BCE. Sahi (1979: 366) concluded that by the early 13th century BCE, iron smelting was definitely practiced on a bigger scale in India, suggesting that the date the technology's inception may well be placed as early as the 16th century BCE. 
The Black and Red Ware culture was another early Iron Age archaeological culture of the northern Indian subcontinent. It is dated to roughly the 12th – 9th centuries BCE, and associated with the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization. It extended from the upper Gangetic plain in Uttar Pradesh to the eastern Vindhya range and West Bengal.
Perhaps as early as 300 BCE, although certainly by 200 CE, high quality steel was being produced in southern India by what Europeans would later call the crucible technique. In this system, high-purity wrought iron, charcoal, and glass were mixed in crucibles and heated until the iron melted and absorbed the carbon. The resulting high-carbon steel, called fūlāḏ فولاذ in Arabic and wootz by later Europeans, was exported throughout much of Asia and Europe.
Will Durant wrote in The Story of Civilization I: Our Oriental Heritage:
"Something has been said about the chemical excellence of cast iron in ancient India, and about the high industrial development of the Gupta times, when India was looked to, even by Imperial Rome, as the most skilled of the nations in such chemical industries as dyeing, tanning, soap-making, glass and cement. By the sixth century the Hindus were far ahead of Europe in industrial chemistry they were masters of calcinations, distillation, sublimation, steaming, fixation, the production of light without heat, the mixing of anesthetic and soporific powders, and the preparation of metallic salts, compounds and alloys. The tempering of steel was brought in ancient India to a perfection unknown in Europe till our own times King Porus is said to have selected, as a specially valuable gift for Alexander, not gold or silver, but thirty pounds of steel. The Moslems took much of this Hindu chemical science and industry to the Near East and Europe the secret of manufacturing "Damascus" blades, for example, was taken by the Arabs from the Persians, and by the Persians from India."
The Sanskrit term Ayas means metal and can refer to bronze, copper or iron.
The Rig Veda refers to ayas, and also states that the Dasyus had Ayas (RV 2.20.8). In RV 4.2.17, "the gods [are] smelting like copper/metal ore the human generations".
The references to Ayas in the Rig Veda probably refer to bronze or copper rather than to iron.  Scholars like Bhargava  maintain that Rigved was written in the Vedic state of Brahmavarta and Khetri Copper mines formed an important location in Brahmavarta. Vedic people had used Copper extensively in agriculture, Water purification, tools, utensils etc., D. K. Chakrabarti (1992) argued: "It should be clear that any controversy regarding the meaning of ayas in the Rgveda or the problem of the Rgvedic familiarity or unfamiliarity with iron is pointless. There is no positive evidence either way. It can mean both copper-bronze and iron and, strictly on the basis of the contexts, there is no reason to choose between the two."
The Arthashastra lays down the role of the Director of Metals, the Director of Forest Produce and the Director of Mining.  It is the duty of the Director of Metals to establish factories for different metals. The Director of Mines is responsible for the inspection of mines. The Arthashastra also refers to counterfeit coins. 
Other texts Edit
There are many references to Ayas in the early Indian texts. 
The Atharva Veda and the Satapatha Brahmana refer to krsna ayas ("black metal"), which could be iron (but possibly also iron ore and iron items not made of smelted iron). There is also some controversy if the term syamayas ("black metal) refers to iron or not. In later texts the term refers to iron. In earlier texts, it could possibly also refer to darker-than-copper bronze, an alloy of copper and tin.   Copper can also become black by heating it.  Oxidation with the use of sulphides can produce the same effect.  
The Yajurveda seems to know iron.  In the Taittiriya Samhita are references to ayas and at least one reference to smiths.  The Satapatha Brahmana 220.127.116.11 refers to the smelting of metallic ore.  In the Manu Smriti (6.71), the following analogy is found: "For as the impurities of metallic ores, melted in the blast (of a furnace), are consumed, even so the taints of the organs are destroyed through the suppression of the breath." Metal was also used in agriculture, and the Buddhist text Suttanipata has the following analogy: "for as a ploughshare that has got hot during the day when thrown into the water splashes, hisses and smokes in volumes. " 
In the Charaka Samhita an analogy occurs that probably refers to the lost wax technique.  The Silpasastras (the Manasara, the Manasollasa (Abhilashitartha Chintamani) and the Uttarabhaga of Silparatna) describe the lost wax technique in detail. 
The Silappadikaram says that copper-smiths were in Puhar and in Madura.  According to the History of the Han Dynasty by Ban Gu, Kashmir and "Tien-chu" were rich in metals. 
An influential Indian metallurgist and alchemist was Nagarjuna (born 931). He wrote the treatise Rasaratnakara that deals with preparations of rasa (mercury) compounds. It gives a survey of the status of metallurgy and alchemy in the land. Extraction of metals such as silver, gold, tin and copper from their ores and their purification were also mentioned in the treatise. The Rasa Ratnasamuccaya describes the extraction and use of copper. 
Chakrabarti (1976) has identified six early iron-using centres in India: Baluchistan, the Northwest, the Indo-Gangetic divide and the upper Gangetic valley, eastern India, Malwa and Berar in central India and the megalithic south India.  The central Indian region seems to be the earliest iron-using centre. 
According to Tewari, iron using and iron "was prevalent in the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas from the early 2nd millennium BC." 
The earliest evidence for smelted iron in India dates to 1300 to 1000 BCE.  These early findings also occur in places like the Deccan and the earliest evidence for smelted iron occurs in Central India, not in north-western India.  Moreover, the dates for iron in India are not later than in those of Central Asia, and according to some scholars (e.g. Koshelenko 1986) the dates for smelted iron may actually be earlier in India than in Central Asia and Iran.  The Iron Age did however not necessary imply a major social transformation, and Gregory Possehl wrote that "the Iron Age is more of a continuation of the past then a break with it". 
Archaeological data suggests that India was "an independent and early centre of iron technology."  According to Shaffer, the "nature and context of the iron objects involved [of the BRW culture] are very different from early iron objects found in Southwest Asia."  In Central Asia, the development of iron technology was not necessarily connected with Indo-Iranian migrations either. 
J.M. Kenoyer (1995) also remarks that there is a "long break in tin acquisition" necessary for the production of "tin bronzes" in the Indus Valley region, suggesting a lack of contact with Baluchistan and northern Afghanistan, or the lack of migrants from the north-west who could have procured tin.
Indus Valley Civilization Edit
The copper-bronze metallurgy in the Harappan civilization was widespread and had a high variety and quality.  The early use of iron may have developed from the practice of copper-smelting.  While there is to date no proven evidence for smelted iron in the Indus Valley Civilization, iron ore and iron items have been unearthed in eight Indus Valley sites, some of them dating to before 2600 BCE.  There remains the possibility that some of these items were made of smelted iron, and the term "krsna ayas" might possibly also refer to these iron items, even if they are not made of smelted iron.
Lothali copper is unusually pure, lacking the arsenic typically used by coppersmiths across the rest of the Indus valley. Workers mixed tin with copper for the manufacture of celts, arrowheads, fishhooks, chisels, bangles, rings, drills and spearheads, although weapon manufacturing was minor. They also employed advanced metallurgy in following the cire perdue technique of casting, and used more than one-piece moulds for casting birds and animals.  They also invented new tools such as curved saws and twisted drills unknown to other civilizations at the time. 
Brass was used in Lothal and Atranjikhera in the 3rd and 2nd millennium BCE.  Brass and probably zinc was also found at Taxila in 4th to 3rd century BCE contexts. 
Copper technology may date back to the 4th millennium BCE in the Himalaya region.  It is the first element to be discovered in metallurgy, Copper and its alloys were also used to create copper-bronze images such as Buddhas or Hindu/Mahayana Buddhist deities.  Xuanzang also noted that there were copper-bronze Buddha images in Magadha.  In Varanasi, each stage of the image manufacturing process is handled by a specialist. 
Other metal objects made by Indian artisans include lamps.  Copper was also a component in the razors for the tonsure ceremony. 
One of the most important sources of history in the Indian subcontinent are the royal records of grants engraved on copper-plate grants (tamra-shasan or tamra-patra). Because copper does not rust or decay, they can survive indefinitely. Collections of archaeological texts from the copper-plates and rock-inscriptions have been compiled and published by the Archaeological Survey of India during the past century. The earliest known copper-plate known as the Sohgaura copper-plate is a Maurya record that mentions famine relief efforts. It is one of the very few pre-Ashoka Brahmi inscriptions in India.
Gold and silver Edit
The deepest gold mines of the Ancient world were found in the Maski region in Karnataka.  There were ancient silver mines in northwest India. Dated to the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. gold and silver were also used for making utensils for the royal family and nobilities.the royal family wore costly fabrics so it may be assumed that gold and silver were beaten into thin fibres and embroidered or woven into fabrics or dress.
Recent excavations in Middle Ganges Valley show iron working in India may have begun as early as 1800 BCE.  In the 5th century BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus observed that "Indian and the Persian army used arrows tipped with iron."  Ancient Romans used armour and cutlery made of Indian iron. Pliny the Elder also mentioned Indian iron.  Muhammad al-Idrisi wrote the Hindus excelled in the manufacture of iron, and that it would be impossible to find anything to surpass the edge from Hindwani steel.  Quintus Curtius wrote about an Indian present of steel to Alexander.  Ferrum indicum appeared in the list of articles subject to duty under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus.  Indian Wootz steel was held in high regard in Europe, and Indian iron was often considered to be the best. 
Wootz and steel Edit
The first form of crucible steel was wootz, developed in India some time around 300 BCE. In its production the iron was mixed with glass and then slowly heated and then cooled. As the mixture cooled the glass would bond to impurities in the steel and then float to the surface, leaving the steel considerably more pure. Carbon could enter the iron by diffusing in through the porous walls of the crucibles. Carbon dioxide would not react with the iron, but the small amounts of carbon monoxide could, adding carbon to the mix with some level of control. Wootz was widely exported throughout the Middle East, where it was combined with a local production technique around 1000 CE to produce Damascus steel, famed throughout the world.  Wootz derives from the Tamil term for steel urukku.  Indian wootz steel was the first high quality steel that was produced.
Henry Yule quoted the 12th-century Arab Edrizi who wrote: "The South Indians excel in the manufacture of iron, and in the preparations of those ingredients along with which it is fused to obtain that kind of soft iron which is usually styled Indian steel. They also have workshops wherein are forged the most famous sabres in the world. . It is not possible to find anything to surpass the edge that you get from Indian steel (al-hadid al-Hindi). 
As early as the 17th century, Europeans knew of India's ability to make crucible steel from reports brought back by travelers who had observed the process at several places in southern India. Several attempts were made to import the process, but failed because the exact technique remained a mystery. Studies of wootz were made in an attempt to understand its secrets, including a major effort by the famous scientist, Michael Faraday, son of a blacksmith. Working with a local cutlery manufacturer he wrongly concluded that it was the addition of aluminium oxide and silica from the glass that gave wootz its unique properties.
After the Indian rebellion of 1857, many Indian wootz steel swords were destroyed by order of the British authorities.  Metal working suffered a decline during the British Empire, but steel production was revived in India by Jamsetji Tata.
Zinc was extracted in India as early as in the 4th to 3rd century BCE. Zinc production may have begun in India, and ancient northwestern India is the earliest known civilization that produced zinc on an industrial scale.  The distillation technique was developed around 1200 CE at Zawar in Rajasthan. 
In the 17th century, China exported Zinc to Europe under the name of totamu or tutenag. The term tutenag may derive from the South Indian term Tutthanagaa (zinc).  In 1597, Libavius, a metallurgist in England received some quantity of Zinc metal and named it as Indian/Malabar lead.  In 1738, William Champion is credited with patenting in Britain a process to extract zinc from calamine in a smelter, a technology that bore a strong resemblance to and was probably inspired by the process used in the Zawar zinc mines in Rajasthan.  His first patent was rejected by the patent court on grounds of plagiarising the technology common in India. However, he was granted the patent on his second submission of patent approval. Postlewayt's Universal Dictionary of 1751 still wasn't aware of how Zinc was produced. 
The Arthashastra describes the production of zinc.  The Rasaratnakara by Nagarjuna describes the production of brass and zinc.  There are references of medicinal uses of zinc in the Charaka Samhita (300 BCE). The Rasaratna Samuchaya (800 CE) explains the existence of two types of ores for zinc metal, one of which is ideal for metal extraction while the other is used for medicinal purpose.  It also describes two methods of zinc distillation. 
Recent excavations in Middle Ganges Valley conducted by archaeologist Rakesh Tewari show iron working in India may have begun as early as 1800 BCE.  Archaeological sites in India, such as Malhar, Dadupur, Raja Nala Ka Tila and Lahuradewa in the state of Uttar Pradesh show iron implements in the period between 1800 BCE-1200 BCE.  Sahi (1979: 366) concluded that by the early 13th century BCE, iron smelting was definitely practiced on a bigger scale in India, suggesting that the date the technology's early period may well be placed as early as the 16th century BCE. 
Some of the early iron objects found in India are dated to 1400 BCE by employing the method of radio carbon dating.  Spikes, knives, daggers, arrow-heads, bowls, spoons, saucepans, axes, chisels, tongs, door fittings etc. ranging from 600 BCE—200 BCE have been discovered from several archaeological sites.  In Southern India (present day Mysore) iron appeared as early as the 12th or 11th century BCE.  These developments were too early for any significant close contact with the northwest of the country. 
The earliest available Bronze age swords of copper discovered from the Harappan sites in Pakistan date back to 2300 BCE.  Swords have been recovered in archaeological findings throughout the Ganges-Jamuna Doab region of India, consisting of bronze but more commonly copper.  Diverse specimens have been discovered in Fatehgarh, where there are several varieties of hilt.  These swords have been variously dated to periods between 1700 and 1400 BCE, but were probably used more extensively during the opening centuries of the 1st millennium BCE. 
The beginning of the 1st millennium BCE saw extensive developments in iron metallurgy in India.  Technological advancement and mastery of iron metallurgy was achieved during this period of peaceful settlements.  The years between 322 and 185 BCE saw several advancements being made to the technology involved in metallurgy during the politically stable Maurya period (322—185 BCE).  Greek historian Herodotus (431—425 BCE) wrote the first western account of the use of iron in India. 
Perhaps as early as 300 BCE—although certainly by 200 CE—high quality steel was being produced in southern India by what Europeans would later call the crucible technique.  In this system, high-purity wrought iron, charcoal, and glass were mixed in a crucible and heated until the iron melted and absorbed the carbon.  The first crucible steel was the wootz steel that originated in India before the beginning of the common era.  Wootz steel was widely exported and traded throughout ancient Europe, China, the Arab world, and became particularly famous in the Middle East, where it became known as Damascus steel. Archaeological evidence suggests that this manufacturing process was already in existence in South India well before the common era.  
Zinc mines of Zawar, near Udaipur, Rajasthan, were active during 400 BCE.  There are references of medicinal uses of zinc in the Charaka Samhita (300 BCE).  The Rasaratna Samuccaya (800 CE) explains the existence of two types of ores for zinc metal, one of which is ideal for metal extraction while the other is used for medicinal purpose.  The Periplus Maris Erythraei mentions weapons of Indian iron and steel being exported from India to Greece. 
The world's first iron pillar was the Iron pillar of Delhi—erected at the times of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375–413).  The swords manufactured in Indian workshops find written mention in the works of Muhammad al-Idrisi (flourished 1154).  Indian Blades made of Damascus steel found their way into Persia.  European scholars—during the 14th century—studied Indian casting and metallurgy technology. 
Indian metallurgy under the Mughal emperor Akbar (reign: 1556-1605) produced excellent small firearms.  Gommans (2002) holds that Mughal handguns were stronger and more accurate than their European counterparts. 
Srivastava & Alam (2008) comment on Indian coinage of the Mughal Empire (established: April 21, 1526 - ended: September 21, 1857) during Akbar's regime: 
Akbar reformed Mughal currency to make it one of the best known of its time. The new regime possessed a fully functioning trimetallic (silver, copper, and gold) currency, with an open minting system in which anyone willing to pay the minting charges could bring metal or old or foreign coin to the mint and have it struck. All monetary exchanges were, however, expressed in copper coins in Akbar's time. In the 17th century, following the silver influx from the New World, silver rupee with new fractional denominations replaced the copper coin as a common medium of circulation. Akbar's aim was to establish a uniform coinage throughout his empire some coins of the old regime and regional kingdoms also continued.
Statues of Nataraja and Vishnu were cast during the reign of the imperial Chola dynasty (200-1279) in the 9th century.  The casting could involve a mixture of five metals: copper, zinc, tin, gold, and silver. 
Considered one of the most remarkable feats in metallurgy, the Seamless celestial globe was invented in Kashmir by Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman in 998 AH (1589-90 CE), and twenty other such globes were later produced in Lahore and Kashmir during the Mughal Empire.  Before they were rediscovered in the 1980s, it was believed by modern metallurgists to be technically impossible to produce metal globes without any seams, even with modern technology.  These Mughal metallurgists pioneered the method of lost-wax casting in order to produce these globes. 
Modern steel making in India began with the setting of first blast furnace of India at Kulti in 1870 and production began in 1874, which was set up by Bengal Iron Works. The Ordnance Factory Board established Metal & Steel Factory (MSF) at Calcutta, in 1872   The Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) was established by Dorabji Tata in 1907, as part of his father's conglomerate. By 1939 Tata operated the largest steel plant in the British Empire, and accounted for a significant proportion of the 2 million tons pig iron and 1.13 of steel produced in British India annually.  
Native arms production Edit
The first iron-cased and metal-cylinder rockets (Mysorean rockets) were developed by the Mysorean army of the South Indian Kingdom of Mysore in the 1780s.  The Mysoreans successfully used these iron-cased rockets against the larger forces of the British East India Company during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. 
A painting showing the Mysorean army fighting the British forces with Mysorean rockets, which used metal cylinders to contain the combustion powder. 
A Mysorean soldier using his Mysorean rocket as a flagstaff (Robert Home, 1793/4).
From wax to metal: goldmaking techniques of the ancient Colombians - History
The great pre-Columbian Native American civilizations&mdashthe Olmec, Maya, Inca, Aztec, and the gold-working cultures of Colombia&mdashleft behind as their material legacy a remarkable array of artifacts. Among them are magnificent pieces of gold work, figurines of silver and platinum, tools of copper and bronze, turquoise mosaics, jade masks, obsidian knives, bright-red pigments of cinnabar and hematite, intricate limestone and basalt carvings, and architectural monuments that still stand today.
The creative use of minerals in pre-Columbian times began with the Olmec fascination with jade. As the Americas&rsquo first complex, advanced society, the Olmec preceded the Maya in Mesoamerica (the anthropological region of similar cultural traditions that extends from southern Mexico to Costa Rica). About 2000 BCE, Olmec sculptors began fashioning jade into beads, pendants, figurines, celts (ax heads), and realistic and stylistic human masks.
The term &ldquojade&rdquo refers to gem forms of two different minerals, nephrite, and jadeite. Jadeite, or sodium aluminum silicate, is a member of the pyroxene group of inosilicates. With its greater hardness, more intensive colors, and subtle translucency, jadeite is the gemologically superior form of jade. All Mesoamerican jadeite came from the metamorphosed serpentinite rock of southern Guatemala&rsquos Motagua River Valley.
Pure jadeite is white, but traces of various metals that replace aluminum within the crystal lattice create a range of pleasing colors, usually, but not always, some shade of green. With its closely packed crystal lattice and strong molecular bonding, jadeite&rsquos hardness approaches that of quartz. Jadeite takes a fine polish, and its extraordinary toughness resists chipping and breaking. These qualities appealed to the Olmec, who developed a reverence for the stone. Jade represented breath, life, fertility, and power to the Olmec, as well as to the Maya and Aztecs who succeeded them.
The Olmec passed their jade-working skills on to the Maya, who fashioned large quantities of jade into anklets, wrist cuffs, mosaic masks, belts, earrings, figurines, ceremonial celts, and objects for funerary rituals and personal adornment. All were intricately worked and highly polished&mdashan impressive feat, considering jadeite&rsquos hardness. Mayan stoneworkers cut jade by repetitively pulling cords covered with silica paste through deepening grooves, then polished it by rubbing with a finer silica paste. As a major trading commodity, Mayan jade has been recovered from cultural sites far from Mesoamerica.
The arrival of the Spanish in 1521 disrupted all Mesoamerican cultures and ended the 3,500-year-old tradition of mining, working, and trading jade. Because the Spanish were interested only in gold, jade working became a lost art. The ancient Guatemalan jadeite mines were forgotten and have only recently been rediscovered.
If jade was the most widely used pre-Columbian gemstone, gold was the most widely worked metal. As early as 1000 BCE, forerunners of the Incas in what is now Peru systematically mined large quantities of gold from rich placer deposits. They simultaneously developed religions dedicated to gold and fashioned the metal into artwork to honor a god the color of gold itself&mdashthe sun. Driven by religious motivations, they advanced gold-working skills to the levels of both an art and a rudimentary science.
These skills spread north to Colombia, reaching Panama and Costa Rica by 200 CE, and southern Mexico by 900 CE. By then, pre-Columbian gold-working techniques were the world&rsquos most advanced. Except for electroplating, they included all the fundamental techniques used by goldsmiths today. Gold working reached its technological and artistic peak about 1200 CE with the mountain cultures of what is now Colombia.
The craftsmanship vested in pre-Columbian gold work is remarkable, considering that it was achieved without iron implements or any modern metallurgical knowledge. With materials limited to drafted charcoal furnaces, stone tools, ceramics, wax, blowpipes, and natural chemical reagents, the gold workers&rsquo most valuable resource was an uncanny understanding of the nature of gold itself.
Native gold always occurs combined with other metals that reduce its workability. To refine gold, goldsmiths mixed it with salt (sodium chloride) and heated it to incandescence. The salt combined with metal impurities to form chlorides, which were driven off as vapors, leaving behind gold of high purity.
Hammering with stone implements was a simple technique that took advantage of gold&rsquos great malleability. Goldsmiths annealed or tempered gold by repetitively heating it, then cooling it in water. Repetitive annealing produced large, intact, smooth gold sheets of uniform thickness that could be fashioned into breastplates, funeral vestments, and masks.
Gold sheets were decorated with etched and repoussé designs, twisted and folded into various shapes, formed into hollow objects, or joined together with fused or stapled seams. Artistically perfect seams, created with heat and a chemical flux, were metallurgically identical to those made by modern gas welders.
Bogotá’s Gold Rush
The Muisca Raft, a votive offering made from copper and gold, was discovered in 1969 in a cave near the town of Pasca, south of Bogotá.
Modern Colombia boasts a treasure trove of ancient sites, including the mountain city of Ciudad Perdida (see CWA 53), the megalithic sculptures at San Agustín, and the burial chambers of Tierradentro. The country’s star attraction, though, is Bogotá’s Museo del Oro – often cited as one of South America’s greatest museums, and home to more than 55,000 pieces of gold and artefacts from Colombia’s major pre-Hispanic cultures.
Set across four exhibition galleries, the Museo del Oro explores the enduring relationship of ancient Colombia’s inhabitants with gold and metallurgy. Visitors are taken on a glittering journey through the mining, manufacture, and finishing process of the metal (using lost-wax casting), and into the mythology and sacred symbolism of each gold piece.
The remarkable variety of crafted gold is best exhibited in the museum’s unique collection of golden poporos – containers that held powdered lime to mix with chewed coca leaves, with metal pins to extract the mixture. Fashioned from layers of sheet gold, these poporos take the form of animals, plants, and, in one highly skilled piece, a seated female figure.
A poporo in the form of a female figure, dating from 400 BC.
The inhabitants of ancient Colombia started working with gold and copper around 500 BC, and for 2,000 years craftsmen mastered complex metalworking techniques. Intricate gold objects in the museum include diadems, bird-shaped breastplates, and funerary masks – used by the ruling elite to reinforce power, prestige, and religion. Displays of simple yet symbolic ornaments used by ordinary people also remind the visitor of the universal appeal of gold: it guarded against evil, appeased the gods, and enriched the afterlife.
In 1499, the first Spanish conquistadors set foot on present-day Colombian soil and were astonished by the region’s wealth. The 16th-century historian López de Gómara later observed, ‘they pick up gold wherever they want… in that river and in others, and sometimes they even fish out nuggets of pure gold, the size of eggs’. Seductive rumours of fabulous treasures soon gave birth to the tale of a mighty chieftain covered in gold, known as El Dorado or ‘the Golden One’.
The legend of El Dorado originated from the Muisca people and their sacred Lake Guatavita, 56km north-east of modern Bogotá. As the Spanish advanced on the Muisca territory in 1537, they heard stories of a dazzling ritual where the chieftain was covered in gold dust, and threw piles of emeralds and gold into the lake – a symbolic offering to the gods.
The museum explores our enduring fascination with El Dorado, and showcases a sublime exhibition highlight – a pure gold votive object (or tunjo) known as the Muisca Raft. Discovered in 1969, this masterpiece depicts a raft with a gilded chieftain at the centre, adorned with elaborate headdresses. Surrounding masked figures carry banners, while a group of men paddle the raft to the centre of a sacred lake, to ritually sacrifice a bounty of treasures to the dark waters below.
As the conquistadors’ thirst for gold reached fever pitch, the Spaniards plundered the Muisca’s riches, and continued on their obsessive quest to discover more El Dorados. The Museo del Oro’s outstanding collection attests to the ancient Colombian practice of burying gold with the deceased, and of making ritual offerings to lakes and caves. These buried gold pieces survived centuries of looting by foreign invaders, and now honour us with a unique glimpse into this magnificent world of ancient artistry.
Tom St John Gray is a documentary film-maker and freelance journalist with a special interest in heritage.
PRE-COLUMBIAN CULTURES OF ECUADOR
The first known man footprints in Ecuadorian lands came from several millennia before the Christian era. These first hunters and gatherers made every day utensils and tools in which color was an important feature of their manufacture. This Paleoindian Pre-Ceramic period was followed by the Formative Period between 3500 to 800-500 BC., which included the Valdivia, Machalilla, Chorrera and Narrío cultures. By then, these peoples practiced agriculture and lead a sedentary life, while peoples inhabiting the seashore relied heavily on fishing. These first cultures worshiped fertility evidenced in the numerous anthropomorphic representations, especially of female characters.
Left: Ceramic female figurine from the Valdivia Culture, 2600-1500 BC. (Brooklyn Museum). Center Top: Anthropomorphic bottle with a stirrup handle from the Machalilla Culture (Ecuador), 1600-700 BC. Center Bottom: Pre-Columbian seals from the Chorrera Culture. Right: Zoomorphic whistling spout effigy bottle, Chorerra Culture (Museum zu Allerheiligen, Switzerland).
The Valdivia culture was located in the coast of the provinces of Guayas and Oro. Its pottery is of remarkable antiquity and of high technical development being considered the central focus from where the ceramics in America spread out. The most beautiful expression of its art are the numerous female figurines they are characterized by the enormous headdresses that frame their beautifully expressive faces and they show changes of style in line with the cultural evolution of Valdivia. It seems that they had ceremonial centers and a matriarchal-based religion.
The Machalilla culture coexisted with the last stages of the Valdivia culture and outlived it. Its ceramics presents several innovations: painted decoration consisting of lines drawn with thick paint, forms different from traditional ones, bottles with a “stirrup handle ” and completely anthropomorphic forms.
The Chorrera culture was broadly spread reaching from the coast inland, penetrating the Andes and the Amazonian territory. Their settlements were located preferably along the rivers which constituted their natural route of expansion. It is considered as the core of the Ecuadorian nationality. Their ceramic is fine with very thin walls obtained by a detailed selection of clay and a controlled firing technique. In this ceramic, the Chorrera man represented his world: their housing, food products, wildlife, both wild and domestic. The anthropomorphic figurines were of greater proportions than in previous cultures and were generally hollow they replaced the bottle with a “stirrup handle” by the whistle, prevailing zoomorphic representations, and used iridescent paint of metallic origin which involved cultural links with Guatemala. The Chorrera ceramics was also influenced by the Chavín ceramics of Peru. The Chorrera also made the first “seals” and used obsidian to manufacture cutting instruments. They were also noted for their lapidary art working in rock crystal, lapis lazuli and shells to make necklaces.
The Narrío culture developed in the inter-Andean valleys and is contemporaneous with that of Chorrera. Throughout its extensive aesthetic production it showed an intimate relationship between man and nature. They worked stone, clay, shell, bone and finally metals, mainly to produce objects for personal adornment. Its thin-walled ceramic showed great mastery. They stood out as notable craftsmen of shell and cultivated the art of the miniature.
Period of Regional Development
It covers ca. 800 BC. to 500 AD. and includes several cultures that flourished along the coast (Bahía, Guangala, Jambelí, Jama-Coaque, La Tolita), and in the Sierra (Tuncahuán and Panzaleo) reaching great artistic splendor. They mastered several techniques -casting, lost wax casting, forging, embossing, amalgaming, welding, gilding, laminating-, they also polished stone, used metals (copper and gold), had deep knowledge of sailing, and it seems they had an urban system with places of worship and burial mounds and a remarkable ceramics production. Their religion involved complicated ceremonies and eroticism played an important role in their beliefs linking it to fertility.
Various features of several of their cultural elements -raspers, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figurines, the “negative” painting in their ceramic decorations- showed connections with Mesoamerica, probably of a commercial nature.
From left to right: Clay head of a priest or shaman, ca. 500 AD, Cerro Narrío Culture Seated figure, 1st century BC.-1st century AD., Tolita Culture Standing gold figure, 1st century BC. – 1st century AD., Tolita Culture Large terra-cotta amphora with painted decoration, 600-800 AD., Tuncahuán Culture.
In ceramics, the Chorrera style bottles-whistles evolved acquiring new tonal effects. This art produced a great variety of whistles, flutes and ocarinas*, resembling the human figure, birds and mammals. The traditional dish drifted towards a dish with a higher base called “compotera*“, while others rested on anthropomorphic feet. The negative painting became very important. Small seals or ceramic stamps abounded being more frequent in the northern area. Sculptural pottery produced giant figures -not less than 50 or 60 cm high- representing both men and women. In the north, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines predominated which represented and “extraterrestrial” world, attainable only by the sorcerer or shaman under the effects of some hallucinogenic drug. Ceramists also produced figurines of ceremonial character and small masks.
The culture of La Tolita was very representative. Located in the Esmeraldas province, this advanced culture takes its name from the homonymous island located at the mouth of the Santiago river. The artistic expression of this culture was fully manifested in sculpture producing sharp portraits and vivid representations of whole sequences of vital moments from birth to death. They were also remarkable craftsmen in metallurgy, where they dominated the most diverse techniques using gold, copper and platinum, this last a metal that was worked in Ecuador for the first time in the world. The goldsmiths didn’t melt it but softened it and gave it the desired shapes. They produced objects of personal adornment and ritual use: rings, earmuffs, nose rings, bezotes*, facial nails, necklaces, diadems, pectorals, earrings, which were generally of minimal dimensions. Sometimes they used two metals in the same piece to produce color contrast. They also elaborated hollow sculptures with great attention to detail.
Regional Development in the Sierra
In the mountain ranges, the Ecuadorian cultures evolved without the possibility of intense cultural exchange conditioned by the isolation of the geographical environment. These cultures included Tuncahuán and Panzaleo. Tuncahuán was located in the north of the country, the Carchi entering the department of Nariño in Colombia. It was characterized by its tri-colored ceramic, which was made with creamy white, black (negative painting*) and bright red colors, this last essential in the decoration. In the sculpture they were outstanding for their jars or pots, the “compoteras” and artifacts imitating sea shells masterfully manufactured, all used as decoration or as musical instruments. They worked copper and gold in jewelry for personal use. The fabrics were another important artistic manifestation of this culture.
The Panzaleo culture spread in the central area of the country: Cotopaxi and Tungurahua, with ramifications towards the North. It specialized in the ceramic production, although they also worked metals. Its ceramic was of very thin walls achieved by using mica as degreaser. They gave their pottery various forms, although were very typical the vessels representing mammals, such as lamas, the anthropomorphic pitchers representing characters covered with “ponchos”, or others with the coca ball on the cheek, etc.- and the “compoteras”. The decoration of the ceramic containers generally used themes expressing two different forms.
Top Left: Ceramic jar with polychrome painting representing a man chewing coca leaves, Panzaleo Culture. Top Right: Feline effigy jar, Manteño Culture. Bottom Left: Ceramic figure from the Huancavilca Culture. Bottom Right: Huge pottery urn with abstract human head, Puruhá Culture.
PERIOD OF CULTURAL INTEGRATION
It is characterized by the construction of enormous works of ceremonial or economic character, the “ tolas *”, which involved the removal of large volumes of soil.
There was a gradual transfer of the agriculture fields up to the highlands by building artificial terraces on the mountain slopes in this way they took advantage of the humidity brought by the sea winds. There were several human gatherings organized in well-marked settlements. The different ways they worshiped their dead indicate the existence of social and administrative hierarchies.
The cultural territories were the following: 1) Atacames, in the North in the Esmeraldas province coinciding with the area occupied by the cultures of La Tolita and Jama-Coaque 2) from Jama to the South occupied by the Manteña-Huancavilca culture, and 3) the culture from Milagro-Quevedo located in the Guayas and Los Ríos provinces.
In these areas, the pottery was of inferior quality than the previous described cultures, except for the Manteña with the production of figurines and numerous seals of varied motifs. The jar with a human face carved on the neck of the recipient was typical of this culture. Manteños and Huancavilcas were distinguished by their stone sculptures their chairs with a U-shaped seat of different sizes are famous. Textiles were very important, as well as metallurgy. They worked the copper, making the “ax-coin”, the giant axes -weighing up to 20 kilos each-, hatches, chisels, small artifacts like needles, fishing hooks, bells, etc. The goldsmithing achieved a high degree of technical development: that of the northern area from Atacames stands out for their miniatures, and the one of the southern area from Milagro-Quevedo by their spiraled and wired motifs.
These cultures essentially vary in their traditional artistic criteria and the cultures per se didn’t present the cultural connectivity that characterized those from the coast.
In Negativo del Carchi, the architecture was characterized by the presence of “tolas”. The art of this culture is embodied in the clay, stone and metal works. In ceramics they produced utilitarian and ritual objects the compoteras acquired agility and sometimes replaced the human figure for the feline the artisans molded the male figures naked, while the female ones, curiously, wearing skirts and clay masks, imparting a particular philosophy. Deep red colors characterized the pottery works of these mountainous cultures.
With metals, artisans made working tools and beautiful jewels using the embossing technique. They adopted very simple forms and the subjects were geometric and represented two forms.
The Cuasmal culture marked the end of the prehistory of the Carchi and developed urban systems located in places close to the agricultural fields. In its ceramic art prevailed the pictorial conception for that reason they focused on drawing geometric, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic motifs with dark painting that stands out on a light background.
Left: Gold plaques from the Tungurahua-Chimborazo border region, 13-15th century AD., Puruhá Culture. Top Right: Whistle-pot with a human head, Chorrera Culture (Museum of the Central Bank of Ecuador, Quito). Bottom Right: Clay vessel from the Cashaloma Culture.
The Puruhá culture was developed in the present province of Chimborazo. Its artistic production was based essentially on the pottery and sometimes on the stone sculpture, which showed a phallic cult amply widespread in the area. They also worked the “tumbaga*” alloy, gold and copper, using various techniques for the manufacturing of personal adornments and weapons.
The Cariari culture bloomed between 500 and 1500 AD in the slopes of the Eastern and Western mountain ranges living of agriculture and hunting. They exploited gold, copper and silver, and developed good metallurgy works. They made beautifully embellished jewels, ritual objects and weapons of rude design. Their ceramic art was notable for their design, standing out among them the anthropomorphic bottles.
The Cashaloma is the culmination of the Cañari culture and lasted until the Inca conquest. Their ceramics was in red and white, decorated by small protuberances forming little heads or zoomorphic stylizations and different new diverse forms it was characteristic from this culture a head-shaped vessel in which the human head and the horns of an animal were combined and which served for ritual purposes. They also worked metals, bone and stone, emphasizing the nose rings and earmuffs in half-moon shapes and decorated with geometric embossing.
Left: Female representation in clay by the Jama-Coaque culture. The woman was represented with a careful hairstyle, huge earmuffs, a nosepiece, a labret and a big necklace from which perhaps hangs an amulet. Like almost all the female figures represented by the Ecuadorian pre-Columbian cultures, she wears a simple skirt (Museum of the Central Bank of Ecuador, Quito). Middle: The Manteña culture used the sculpted stone in the form of stelae in which they possibly represented divinities. In this one we can see his helmet-shaped headdress, the big necklace and a kind of skirt wore over the skirt itself. Right: Seated Coquero, a type of image abundant in the culture of the Negativo del Carchi. It was decorated with negative painting. The artist has expressed with few elements the state of placidity produced by the consumption of the coca leaves. However, at the same time the black paint drips from his eyes like tears giving this man’s face a certain dramatic air (Museum of the Central Bank of Ecuador, Quito) The famous representation of the solar god made in gold by the culture of La Tolita. The man of this culture attributed to this god the generative principle of the universe and life, but humanized it by giving it a human head and long and zigzagging hair (Museum of the Central Bank of Ecuador, Quito).
Ocarina: An ancient wind musical instrument, a type of vessel flute. Ocarinas are traditionally made from clay or ceramic.
Compotera: A bowl with an annular, high and frustoconical base, whose interior is usually decorated with designs.
Bezote: A species of earring (or labret) wore in the lower lip used by members of some American Indian groups.
Negative Painting: A pictorial technique that involves applying pigment around a subject to give it definition.
Tola: Ceremonial mounds from the cultures of Pre-Columbian Ecuador.
Tumbaga: An alloy of gold and copper commonly used by pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and South America cultures.