In which city was gold discovered first?


Ancient Egypt and gold

The ancient Egyptian pharaohs believed they were descendants of the sky god Horus and accordingly they showered themselves and their surroundings with gold. In ancient Egypt, where silver was much rarer and had to be imported expensively, gold was given an important role in myth and belief.

It was not its value, but its beauty and symbolism that made gold the hallmark of kings and gods. All sacrifices and jewelry that kings and priests needed were made of gold.

In the 15th century BC Pharaoh Thutmose III conquered. Babylon in a golden chariot. He brought a lot of gold to Egypt, which was steadily supplemented by mining from the mines in Nubia (today's Sudan) and the Arabian Peninsula.

The Egyptians maintained a professional mining industry in which thousands of slaves worked. Gold was a symbol of power, prestige and immortality.

The treasures of the old graves

In 1870 Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) uncovered the legendary treasure of Troy. The site contained around 9,000 gold and silver objects. Schliemann suspected that the inhabitants of Troy had protected the treasure from looting by the Greeks and buried it.

On November 4, 1922, the British archaeologist Howard Carter (1873-1939) discovered one of the greatest treasures in world history: the tomb of Tutankhamun, who lived in the 14th century BC.

The archaeologists found the Pharaoh's mummy surrounded by three coffins, the inner one made of solid gold and weighing more than 180 kilograms. The burial chamber contained, among other things, a chariot made of white gold, golden couches, Tutankhamun's throne chair and numerous statues.

Money and gold in ancient times

As early as 550 BC, the legendary ruler Croesus in Lydia (located on the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor in what is now Turkey) had the first gold and silver coins minted.

However, some scientists suspect that coins were used much earlier in other parts of the world and in China. Since the word for "gold" and other metals are the same in Chinese, nothing can be said about the nature of the coins.

The Egyptians traded in rings and precious metal bars, the so-called talents. One talent weighed about 8.5 grams.

Athens got rich by mining silver. Thanks to the silver deposits in the Laurion Mountains, the Athenians were able to create a single currency - the drachma. The owl on the coin state guaranteed the weight and metal content of the coin.

Gold and the struggle for world domination

In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) strove to conquer large areas of the then known world. In order to wage wars, he needed gold, and his father Phillip II of Macedonia had already bequeathed it to him in the form of gold mines.

However, Alexander had to support his power by conquering other rich states. He occupied the rich lands of the Middle East: Persia (Iran) and Bactria (now Afghanistan), then Egypt.

After conquering the Persian imperial treasures, he strove further east. He brought home immense fortunes and gave them generously to the people. This boosted the economy. He died when he was only 33, but the effects of his actions outlasted him for a long time.

The Roman Empire

Rome needed an enormous amount of gold in order to be able to sustain the huge and steadily growing world empire. Within a few centuries, the Romans managed to control all the rich deposits of precious metals from Spain to Britain and Dacia (Romania) to Asia Minor.

But gold was not only beneficial for the empire; individuals could also benefit from it. Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC), for example, was heavily in debt when he went to Spain as governor in 61 BC.

It was a profitable business. Because in just one year he managed to pay his debts and to enter into an alliance with his opponents Crassus and Pompeius, which went down in history under the name "Triumvirate" (rule of three men) and ruled Rome for the next few years.

The Roman generals brought the precious metal into the empire through wars of conquest. Caesar was very successful on this point. He distributed the booty among the people, who held him in high regard and who did not rebel when he was appointed dictator.

Luxury and decadence ruled Rome in the centuries that followed, but apart from gold, the empire had hardly any goods of its own. The rulers neglected the modernization of the mines. The precious metal supplies were running low and it became more and more difficult to maintain the empire.

With the dwindling economic power, the military strength increasingly disappeared until the Roman Empire slowly disintegrated in the 4th century AD.

The alchemy and the gold

The etymological root of the word "alchemy" is in the Arabic "Al-Kimiya", which means "the art of the Egyptians". It came to Europe from ancient Egypt via Spain.

Alchemy is an old chemical and natural philosophy teaching that experimented with substances and elements. It was already practiced in ancient times, flourished in the Middle Ages and has been gradually replaced by modern chemistry in the modern era.

The natural philosophy teaching of Aristotle (384-322 BC) gave reason to believe that the gold in the interior of the earth is formed from other metals. Humans wanted to imitate this process in a laboratory and produce gold artificially.

Kings and popes hired alchemists to gain economic advantage. They also wanted to find the "Philosopher's Stone" with which they could transform a base metal into gold or brew an "elixir of life".

Many princes in the Middle Ages suffered from a lack of gold, so they supported the alchemists - or they hunted them. Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) was captured by the Elector Friedrich August of Saxony ("August the Strong") and forced to produce gold.

In 1708, by chance, he invented porcelain, which was later called "white gold". The prince was satisfied and started production in Meißen. Böttger died impoverished a few years later.

Modern chemistry owes many processes to alchemy such as distillation and filtration and compounds such as ammonia, ether or phosphorus. However, the alchemists could never produce gold artificially.

Columbus and the Spanish Conquerors

When Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) set out from Genoa on his first voyage across the Atlantic in 1492, he dreamed of having a direct sea route to Asia as well as gold and honorary titles such as "Admiral of the Ocean" and viceroy he discovered Areas.

In total, he set out on cruises four times to bring gold and exotic goods to the Spanish kingdom. The royal couple Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain financed these trips sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly. Columbus and his crew conquered and subjugated islands such as Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica.

Over the next few decades they were followed by merciless and greedy conquerors, whose names were bloodily inscribed in history: Hernán Cortéz (1485-1547) and Francisco Pizarro (1478-1541). They decimated the Aztec, Maya and Inca Indian populations.

They robbed and destroyed their culture and murdered their chiefs, always in search of gold and wealth. But none of these conquerors became wealthy and happy.

The forays made Spain the richest nation of the sixteenth century. The conquistadors left a trail of devastation from Mexico to Peru.

The New World and the Gold

When the United States of America declared independence from the British Crown in 1776, the young state had no gold and silver reserves of its own. The paper money issued had no cover and led to inflation. The only significant gold occurrences were discovered in North Carolina.

The US ended its fighting with Mexico in 1848 by paying $ 15 million for a large area from Texas to California. Nobody knew at the time that gold had been found near a sawmill in California days earlier.

The discovery led to the first and largest gold rush in US history. Hundreds of thousands of people moved to California, by ship or over land. In the decade following the discovery, over half a billion dollars worth of gold were found in California - almost 35 times the amount the US paid Mexico for the territories.

Because of the high gold deposits and the increasing population, California was declared the 31st state of the USA as early as 1850. In the 1860s and 1870s, the next gold rush occurred on the South Platte River in Colorado. Here, too, the gold deposits and the increasing population quickly led to Colorados being declared a state.

The last major gold rush in US history occurred on the Klondike River in Alaska. Noteworthy gold discoveries were limited to the years 1896-1898, but the gold rush on the Klondike River found its way into many works of literature and film history and thus became the most well-known.

Today the US gold reserves are stored in the Fort Knox military base in the state of Kentucky. Around 500 railway wagons have been needed since 1936 to gradually move all of the country's gold bars there.

Fort Knox has since been considered the best-guarded building in the world. Theft of the gold is almost impossible due to the high security precautions as well as the enormous logistical effort.