They Took It With Them

Part of the Gold exhibition.

Greek EarringsJewelry making use of animal shapes became widely popular during this Hellenistic period (late 4th to 2nd century BCE). Jewelry similar to this pair of gold earrings is frequently depicted in scenes of everyday life on Greek vases and sculptures.
© AMNH / Craig Chesek

In much of the ancient world, owning gold was the exclusive right of nobility. The Egyptians filled the tombs of their pharaohs with gold to support them in the afterlife. Artisans of the Hissar III culture beat gold nuggets into thin sheets, then shaped them into adornments. Other ancient civilizations, especially the nomadic Scythians, who lived north of the Black Sea in the last thousand years BC, used gold ornaments and objects in burials and other religious rituals.

A flat object, made from a sheet of gold, representing the head of an animal with enormous curved horns.
Gold sheet mouflon Hissar III Treasure Hill, Tepe Hissar, Iran; c. 2500-2000 BCAmerican Museum of Natural History, Anthropology 73/3278
© AMNH / Jackie Beckett