Gold - Part 2
Written for the KidsKnowIt Network by:
People have been using gold for ornaments and jewelry long before they were writing things down. Archaeologists have found gold jewelry dating back to very early Copper Age peoples. The oldest known golden treasure comes from a place archaeologists call the Varna Necropolis. Necropolis is a fancy scientist word for graveyard. In the Varna Necropolis, archaeologists found about 3000 different gold artifacts. The combined weight of these artifacts is close to 6 kg (13 lbs. 4 oz.). These graves have been dated to 4700 to 4200 BCE.
Skeleton in the Varna Necropolis.
One of the earliest written references to gold that archaeologists have found comes from ancient Egypt. By the time of the written reference, Egypt had long since conquered Nubia and the rich Nubian gold fields. Amenhotep III was using gold to manipulate the rulers of rival empires. In a diplomatic message, King Tushratta of Mitanni asks Amenhotep to give him gold saying that gold “was more common than dirt in Egypt.” That letter was sent approximately 2500 BCE. Amenhotep was cunning. He would give gold to the rulers of other empires in the area making each one think he was their friend, that way if any one of them tried to attack Egypt the rulers would try to stop the attacker.
Egypt truly had a lot of gold, but I'm pretty sure that it wasn’t more common than dirt. One of my favorite gold artifacts was found in the tomb of another one of Egypt’s Pharaohs, one of Amenhotep III‘s grandson. Amenhotep’s Grandson was Tutankhamun. In 1922, the archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb. Tutankhamun’s, or King Tut’s tomb was the only royal tomb that hadn’t been cleaned out by ancient tomb robbers. That is the reason King Tut is so famous, not because he was a particularly important king (he was only 17 or 18 when he died), but because most of his stuff was still with him when Howard Carter found him. Anyway, my favorite golden artifact is a golden dagger that was found with King Tut’s body. Because it was decorated with so much gold it probably was spectacularly useless as a knife, but it’s pretty.
Later, and on the other side of the world, the Spanish were taking literally tons of gold and silver artifacts from the Native Americans and shipping them off to Spain, if they could get it past the storms and the English privateers that is. There they were melted down and used to buy weapons and equipment for Spain’s army and navy.