Archaeologists dig out the oldest gold mine

New research in Georgia

Underground in the old tunnel © Ruhr-Universität Bochum
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Gold is the first metal that has been won and processed by humans just because of its prestige character. It played a prominent role in the development of cultural epochs. In 2004, a research team in Georgia made a unique discovery: The oldest gold mine in the world at Sakdrissi from the time of 3, 000 BC. In a new, three-and-a-half-year project, the archaeologists now want to further excavate the mine and elicit its secrets.

In 2004, Georgian and German archaeologists around Professor Andreas Hauptmann of the German Mining Museum Bochum and Professor Thomas Stöllner of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) discovered the gold mine in Sakdrissi during an apprenticeship. Dated to the third millennium BC, it seems sensational, as it had previously been assumed that gold was extracted in rivers as so-called soap gold. It was previously unknown that the precious metal was already being mined in tunnels at this time. The Georgian region is famous for its gold deposits, such as the colchic gold, which is also found in the legend of the Golden Fleece.

State-of-the-art technology in use

General view of the site of the old gold mine. © Ruhr-University Bochum

The new project is extensive: From the end of July, Stöllner and his colleagues carry out extensive excavations in the Sakdrissi gold mine, supplemented by work in early Bronze Age settlements in the region and studies on agriculture and livestock farming.

The archaeologists pursue several goals: In addition to the exploration of extraction, metallurgy, distribution and economic significance of gold, a 3D-based documentation technology, combined with a GIS (Geographic Information System) -based information system will be used, which one the site and their Map and analyze the environment.

Cooperation with Georgian researchers

Georgian junior researchers are included in all investigations, who will come to Bochum for longer stays in the further course of the project and will write papers on the excavations in Sakdrissi. The researchers are interested in the transformation of gold from prestige objects to economic resources to the consequences of gold extraction for economic and social developments in the region. display

Likewise, the team is interested in what the early phase of an initial gold mining strategy looked like. Parallel to the excavations, a group of geologists will take gold samples from the deposit and analyze them in Germany. Researchers hope to see where the gold won at Sakdrissi has come from, and artifacts from museums will also be investigated.

(idw - Ruhr-University Bochum, 25.07.2007 - DLO)