Abstract Expressions for calculating the elemental concentrations of composite materials based on a gamma absorption technique are derived. These expressions provide quantitative information about elemental concentrations of materials. Calculations are carried out for estimating the concentrations of copper and gold in some alloys of bronze and gold. The method was also applied for estimating the concentrations of some heavy elements in a water matrix highlighting the differences with photon attenuation measurements. Theoretical mass attenuation coefficient values were obtained using the WinXCom program. A high-resolution gamma-ray spectrometry based on high purity germanium detector (HPGe) was employed to measure the attenuation of a strongly collimated monoenergetic gamma beam through samples.