Some one hundred elements, for the most part fragmentary, were excavated in 2001 from tomb T1, and tomb T20 yielded a similar number. They clearly illustrate the Xiongnu's interest in gold. It appears that the use of this prestigious material was reserved for the very highest dignitaries; it adorned the coffin and was placed on the deceased's body to accentuate his adornments. When used as decoration, the gold was applied in thin layers on different surfaces, both organic and metallic, and thus took on the shape of reliefs and contours. Jewelry was created by hammering thicker sheets of gold. Granulation and inlay work were also techniques used by Xiongnu metalworkers.
To establish the gold's origin, the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France used two specific techniques that required the use of an AGLAE particle accelerator. The PIXE technique makes use of a proton beam to detect even the smallest quantities of materials, thanks to the X-rays that they emit. The second technique, PIGE, uses gamma rays to deeply probe the metal, revealing its composition.
Two hundred analyses were thus carried out, and the results have shown that the gold used was most likely alluvial in nature. One can conclude that the material originated from waterways that the Xiongnu themselves exploited, and that they panned for gold.