It’s certainly debatable who found the first gold but the best guess leads to early hominids. It is, however, undebatable that it is the first metal that they worked with. Upon its discovery it quickly became an integral and important part of daily existence and culture.
Gold has notable qualities that would have made it desirable even back before there was a real monetary value. It was not only nice to look at and possessed a natural beauty and shine that could be seen by all, but it was also highly malleable and tarnish resistant. This meant they could mold and shape the metal into items for practical uses as well as ornamental.
Gold in Early Cultures
It is noted that the Incas actually referred to this glorious metal as the “tears of the sun” so we know they prized the material. There is also evidence dating back to 3100 BC displaying gold being used by the Egyptians. Visit any world history museum and you’re bound to find loads of gold Egyptian artifacts and jewelry. There is also proof that the Egyptians gave gold a value of two and a half parts silver to one part gold, so they clearly found it more valuable than other metals.
Gold was first used as actual currency in 700 BC. The Lydian merchants created the coins by stamping heated chunks of gold and silver. This mixture contained 63% gold and is referred to as electrum. They used this gold throughout their trades and were able to amass a large collection that they hoarded for themselves.
The Greeks brought whole new methods. Though their science at the time may have been quite primitive, the Greeks did learn a lot about the practical work of gold mining. Due to their gold mining knowledge they were able to mine all the way from Gibraltar to the Asia Minor and Egypt by 323 BC. They are known for being quite prolific. Some of the same mines can still be found in these areas to this day.
The Romans continued the gold journey and further advanced the Greek science. They worked to divert streams to flow through their mines and created sluices
. Mining underwater they resorted to waterwheels and heated the ore around the gold so that it could be separated. They were quite innovative and many of their methods are similar to those still in use today.
Later, gold miners would use this water method in conjunction with other tactics. They would use water force to push gold-laden sand down through a sheep’s hide. The wiry stiff hair would collect and trap the gold so that it could be collected later. This method worked particularly well with small but dense flakes.
Once a significant amount of gold had been collected the miner could then hang his “golden fleece” up to air dry. Once fully dry the fleece would be brushed and beaten until all the gold had fallen out of the hair. Finally free, the precious gold could be collected. This method was still seen throughout the famous gold rush period of 1849 onwards in the United States. It wasn’t unusual to visit the busy miner towns and see them implementing this simple and cost effective method.
Also Read: Largest Gold Nuggets Ever Found
And: Historic Gold Mining Areas
Universally Recognized Beauty
It’s clear to see that because of golds ability to appear in diverse climates and geological formations it was discovered and utilized by many civilizations throughout history. Interestingly enough all of these diverse cultures recognized the beauty and value it held.
To this day we are still prizing gold. We collect it and save it for its future monetary value. We buy loads of gold jewelry to adorn ourselves with. Some of us still go out to the rivers and the mountains in search of our very own nuggets!