Donnerstag, 08. Juni 2017, 17:30

Prehistoric Gold Mining

From technical practice to social control

Lecture by Thomas Stöllner (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Keynote Lecture to the Conference “Searching for Gold


Early Metal Ages gold mining underwent considerable changes between the later 4th millennium till the end of the 2nd millennium: Although the social display of gold played already an important role in some early chalcolithic societies a long time before it is the deliberate exploitation of rock gold sources that allowed early societies a regular access to this precious metal. Although river gold might have occurred sometimes in considerable quantities and could have been collected over a longer time span, the exploitation of high grade gold deposits made an important difference. The exploitation became part of a regular societal and technical practice. To reconstruct these practises is therefore vital to understand the embedding of the gold exploitation to social structures and value system.

The keynote lecture will discuss rock-gold-mining complexes in Georgia, Egypt and Southeast Europe in respect of the societal involvement to technical procedures and the economic processes that might be connected with them. The Sakdrisi-Dzedzvebi complex (SE-Georgia) represents an example when mining developed to a permanent practice: We learn much how mining and gold production structured the daily economic and ritual life practices. While the SE-Georgian example is exceptional in regard of unravelling the interwoven practices of a society specialised in gold production the stage of knowledge is different with Egyptian gold mining since the beginning of the 3rd millennium: There is little knowledge about the earliest exploitations of the Eastern desert gold mining fields. It is not earlier than the later 3rd millennium that inscriptions and textual sources indicate a stronger state-control by the Pharaonic societies and state. Gold mining became a strongly controlled state affair and it can be asked if this was also the case for later examples of the 2nd millennium within the wider Mediterranean. Egypt certainly is the first case that gold underwent a commoditization in the later 2nd millennium and this also could be asked for the SE-Europe and Aegean. Are we able to recognize such principle economic differences and developments also on behalf of the technical and social processes at the precious metal mining sites? The lecture tries to outline possible arguments within a long-term perspective.