• Technology
  • Metallurgy
  • Gold in Egypt

  • Comparison Between Egyptian and Roman Gold

    CriteriaEgyptian Gold Roman Gold
    Imagesphoto of the golden mask of Tutankhamen photo showing a Roman golden coin
    Importance - Religious - Egyptians believed that gold was a divine and indestructible metal associated with the sun. The Pharaoh was called "the Golden Horus ", and the skin of gods was believed to be golden.
    - Egyptian domestic trade was done by barter, gold had no economic importance
    - All the mines in Egypt were State monopolies
    - The Egyptian government did not maintain or needed any gold treasury, civil servants were paid in food and gifts, money did not exist until the Ptolemaic Period
    - Economic - Ancient Rome was heavily dependant on trade, and golden coins where the main currency used
    - The mining of gold was a State monopoly as in Egypt
    - The Romans maintained an Imperial Treasury consisting of gold coins, the treasury was supervised by the senate, and provided the Roman government with the necessary financial funds to maintain the Empire, pay salaries and import goods from other parts of the world.
    1. Funerary masks - the famous Tutankhamen solid gold mask, found in his coffin, was made of beaten and burnished gold
    2. Small statues of gods, which were generally used in religious ceremonies.
    3. Royal Jewelry, Royal artifacts and chariots
      - The general population did not use any gold in their daily life, and the metal had no economic importance for them.
    Coinage was the most important usage of gold.
    - Golden jewelry - was worn widely by rich men and women.
    Mining Techniques Simple techniques
    1. Extracted from surface mines - called nub-en-set (gold of the mountain)
    2. Extracted from alluvial auriferous sand - called nub-en-mu (gold of the river).
      Auriferous sand was placed in a bag made of a fleece with the woolly side inwards; water was then added and the bag vigorously shaken by two men. When the water was poured off, the earthy particles were carried away, leaving the heavier particles of the metal adhering to the fleece.
    Advanced - The Romans employed four techniques to mine for gold:
    1. River deposits - Easy method, similar to the Egyptian technique
    2. Surface mining - where the ore was available at the surface either in streambeds or exposed on the ground.
    3. Hydraulic mining -The Romans also made great use of aqueducts in their extensive surface mining operations, all leading to reservoirs and tanks. The water was released to was the mountain, first to reveal any gold-bearing ore, and then to work the ore itself.
    4. Deep vein mining - a very advanced method developed by the Romans to extract gold from deep underground resources
    Mining Locations - The Egyptian word for gold is nub, which survives in the name Nubia, which was the main center of production
    - Over one hundred ancient small gold quarries have been discovered in Egypt, mostly in the desert valleys to the east of the Nile
    - The Turin papyrus map, is the oldest topographical map from Egypt, it depicts the location 1,300 gold mines, and the houses of the gold working settlement.
    - Las Medullas in Spain - a huge mining area, large quantities of water supplied by seven 100 km. long aqueducts were used to wash the extensive gold deposits
    - Ogofau - deep gold mines located in the Wales.
    Quantities - Contrary to popular beliefs, the amount of gold produced and used in ancient Egypt was small, accounting for it's limited Royal and religious use
    - The annual production of gold during pharaonic times is thought not to have exceeded one ton per year.
    - Romans mined and used vast quantities of gold for their economic system
    - Spain alone, a major producing centre in Roman times shipped 1400 tons of gold to Rome every year