A few millennia ago, shining, yellow nuggets, which we now know as gold, were discovered. It was first discovered in streams across the globe in its natural state. It is highly likely that it was the first metal known to man. Gold then became a part of every culture in the world. Its luster, natural beauty, and brilliance as well as its resistance to tarnish and great malleability made it an excellent metal to both work and play with.
Where does gold come from?
Because gold is scattered widely throughout the geologic world, it was discovered by many different groups in many different parts of the world. The precious metal impressed almost everyone who found it as well as the developing culture in which they lived. Gold soon became an important part of these cultures.
Gold was the first widely known metal among our species. When you think about the historical progress of technology, you most likely consider the development of copper and iron working as the greatest contributions to the cultural and economic progress of our species – but the fact is that gold came first.
Gold is, without a doubt, the easiest metal to work. It occurs in a natural state that is virtually pure and workable while the natural state of most other metals is in ore bodies that make smelting a slightly difficult process. The early uses of gold were no doubt ornamental and because it is brilliant and does not get corroded or tarnished. It is linked to royalty and deities in early civilizations.
There has never been a metal as tough as gold. The earliest history of the interaction between humans and gold is long lost but its link with the gods, with wealth and immortality are common in numerous cultures throughout the world.
Early civilizations associated gold with rulers and gods. The precious metal was sought in their name and devoted to their glorification. Humans place a high value on gold almost intuitively, equating it with beauty, the cultural elite, and untarnished and innate value. And since gold is a widely distributed metal throughout the world, this idea about gold is found in ancient and modern civilizations everywhere.
Archaeological Evidence on Gold
Gold’s history begins in remote antiquity. However, with so little archaeological evidence to show the time and place of the first encounter of man and the yellow metal, there can only be guesses about those people who first came upon gold at different times and places.
Educated professionals in fossils have found that that these small bits of natural gold were used by the Paleolithic man around 40,000 BC. These fossils were found in Spanish caves. Consequently and unsurprisingly, historical sources cannot come to an agreement on the precise date that gold was first used.
One source states that the recorded discovery of the precious metal occurred circa 6,000 BC., while another source says that the relic metal was used by Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and the temple priests for adornment circa 3,000 BC. However, it is interesting to note that the medium of exchange in early Egypt was not gold but the barter system.
The people of the Kingdom of Lydia, which you may know as western Turkey, claim that gold was first used as money in 700 BC. If you are a history buff, you will probably recall the story of a kingdom of King Croesus, the famous fortune-seeking king, circa 550 BC.
Gold as Money and its Place in World Economies
Gold has always had value, even before it was turned into money. This is demonstrated by man’s extraordinary efforts to acquire it. One worldwide effort that goes back thousands of years is prospecting. Prospecting for gold goes back a very long way, even before the appearance of the first money which came in the form of gold coins. Today, the value of gold is accepted all over the world. Same as it was in ancient times, gold’s intrinsic appeal appeals to humans today.
The world economy was made possible by a monetary standard. The concept of money, i.e. gold and silver in fineness coins as well as standard weight, allowed for the expansion and prosperity of economies throughout the world. During the Classic period of Roman and Greek rule in the western world, both gold and silver made their way to China for silk and India for spices.
At the height of the Roman Empire (AD 98 to 160), gold and silver coins ruled from Egypt and North Africa to Britain. Money had been invented and gold was its name.