Gold: production and artefacts

Statement of problem

In comparison to copper and bronze, less research has been done on early technologies for the extraction of gold, and on the distribution of gold: on the one hand, the exploitation of gold deposits was more complicated; on the other hand, conservation issues make it difficult to take samples from artefacts. Regional focuses within this research area are the royal tombs of Ur in Mesopotamia, where thousands of gold artefacts have been found, the (Trans-) Caucasus area in Georgia, and Anatolia (Alacahöyük) and Syria (Ebla). The two research directors, Prof. Dr. A. Hauptmann (Bochum) and Frau PD Dr. Sabine Klein (Frankfurt) are consulting scholars at Penn Museum, Philadelphia.

Objective

The aim here is to explore Bronze Age methods of gold extraction, from mining to metallurgical processes. How was gold smelted, when were alloys first used, when did the process of parting gold and silver begin? A further area to be investigated is the early gold trading routes. What, for example, was the role of the ‘gold countries’, Egypt and Nubia, in the ancient world? Frequently occurring inclusions of platinum group elements are important for our investigations.


Research Projects

Studies on gold objects from the royal tombs of Ur

Studies on gold objects from the royal tombs of Ur

The Pennsylvania University Museum for Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia (Penn Museum) has a large collection of metal artefacts made of copper, bronze, silver and gold, which Sir Leonard Woolley had excavated in the royal tombs of Ur (middle of the 3rd millennium) between 1922 and 1934.

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Gold in Georgia

Gold in Georgia

Georgia offers the ideal conditions for following gold’s “metallurgical chain” from ore to metal. Gold deposits have made it possible to take samples of the precious metal for analytical purposes. In the Bolnissi district, the oldest prehistoric gold mine found so far has been identified. Numerous Georgian gold artefacts have been sampled in order to compare them with the native gold for provenance studies.

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