Golden Ages

Part of the Gold exhibition.

Centuries of Gold Across Continents

Gold was probably the first metal worked by humans. Gleaming nuggets of gold were easy to find and collect from stream banks, and were easily shaped with simple tools. The oldest worked-gold objects, the products of the ancient Thracian civilization, were made as early as 4400 BC, and were discovered at a burial site in Varna, Bulgaria. Through the centuries, as many other cultures developed, gold became a symbol of wealth, luck, power and magic. The importance of gold in the civilizations of every era makes all ages "golden."

Mapping Ancient Egyptian Gold

The Turin Papyrus, an ancient scroll from about 1150 BC, contains the oldest known geological map. It accurately shows the local distribution of different rock types in a 15-kilometer stretch of Wadi Hammamat, the "Valley of Many Baths," in Egypt's Eastern Desert. Inscriptions on the map describe such features as "mountains where gold is worked," and "houses of the gold-working settlement."

Gilded mask Gilded cartonnage, paint, gold leaf, and glass EgyptianEgypt; Late period, 712-332 BC
AMNH, Anthropology 90.2/6435