Figure of the month: 7000 years

News Arnulf Hinkel – 05.10.2016

Looking at the dawn of mankind one will notice that individual periods of the earliest human history are named after materials: there is the Stone Age, the Copper Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. There is, however, no period named after a precious metal, however. This is because gold as well as silver have always been very rare. However, it is proven from numerous findings that gold enjoyed great popularity already throughout the Copper Age – roughly 7000 years ago. The consistency of the special shine of gold, as well as its rarity and the astonishing weight are the reasons that made it so very attractive to our forefathers. Also, it was possible to mechanically process gold even with the simple tools of the Copper Age. Due to the relatively low melting point of gold, 1064° C, which is even slightly lower than the melting point of copper, and the possibility to alloy it with numerous other metals, it quickly advanced to a preferred material, especially to make jewelry and to decorate everyday objects. The fact that gold does not corrode – unlike many other metals – contributed further to its appeal for humans.

Right from the start, gold was regarded as the epitome of wealth and quickly became a measure of a person's fortune. Around 3000 B.C. Menes, the founder of the Egyptian state, introduced the very first gold bars – weighing 14 grams – as a means of exchange. Nevertheless, it took ages until gold became an instrument of payment with reliably high quality standards in terms of exact weight and purity. It was around 225 BC when the "Aureus" was introduced in the ever expanding Roman Empire: the first gold coin used as a standardised currency. However, this gold coin had a weight of some 7.8 grams, making it far too valuable to establish itself as a general means of payment. This is still the case today.

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