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. The innovative character of this project lies in the fact that it explores the early extraction and distribution of gold, which has so far been difficult because of the unhelpful field findings (low concentrations of gold) and because of the (minor-destructive) analytical techniques used on gold objects.

The starting point for the mining archaeology research is the Early Bronze Age gold mine of Sakdrissi (4th millennium BC), which has been the subject of research since 2004. The mine is situated in a gold-mining district in the central Mashavera valley. The excavation aims to investigate the gold mine and to estimate its yield using docimasy. In the contemporaneous settlement of Balitshi-Dzedzvebi, workshops have been excavated which have provided evidence of both metallurgical and processing activities; graves from the same period have also been examined. A further aim of the research is to discover how gold mining fitted into the Kura-Araxes economic system.
In parallel to these studies, a doctoral thesis was begun in 2011, involving analytical studies of native gold and gold artefacts in Georgia. The aims of these analyses are a diachronic survey of gold technology, and provenance studies of gold. Particular attention will be paid to gold objects from the Hellenistic settlement of Vani (Kolchis). In this period, the process of parting gold and silver evidently brought purified gold into circulation.
The methods of analysis applied include state-of-the-art analytical procedures such as non-destructive measurements with a portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, scanning electron microscopy, and electron probe micro analysis, trace element and lead isotope analysis using mass spectrometry with associated laser ablation, and measurements using PIXE on the particle accelerator at the RUB’s RUBION laboratory.

PhD thesis

Moritz Jansen


Prof. Dr. Andreas Hauptmann

PD Dr. Sabine Klein, Goethe Universität Frankfurt a. M.

Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum