Some of the most important witnesses of the quest for and winning of gold in prehistoric times take the form of golden archeological finds: cutie implements and sacrificial vessels, gold masks and coffins for the burial of the dead - the Egyptians called the royal tomb “the gold house”, weapons as symbols of power, as well as jewelry believed to have the power of imparting supernatural strength and warding off evil influences. Written sources historiographical times, often supplemented by illustrations, provide sporadic reports of expeditions in search of gold and special gold trading journeys. The description of some important episodes provides at least a partial historical account.
In Egypt, a cultural center with a wide influence, golden jewelry has been found which dates back to the Neolithic Nagada civilization at the end of the New Stone Age. As in all early civilizations, the winning and Working of gold were ' connected with mythological concepts: gold, regarded as being related to the sun, was a giver of life and banisher of all forms of darkness - demons, death or other threats. Later, gold played an important role in the state-regulated cult of Egypt in which the ruler of the time was regarded as a son of the gods. It is certain that gold (up to one carat) was washed from the sands of the Nile. But the gold deposits in the alluvial waste of the dry wadis were also exploited and, especially south of the line from Kena to Kosseir, where gold was found in the Etbai district between Koptos and Berenike in the valleys and on the slopes of the eastern highland desert, the quest for gold extended as far down as Nubia. Since historical times, numerous remains of Egyptian gold mines have been found. In the 2100 meter-high mountain desert between the Nile and the Red Sea, thirty six ancient Egyptian gold mines have been Found, seven of which were reopened in the 2oth century. To all intents and purposes, Nubia was the gold country”, and its name is deified from the Egyptian word for gold, “nub”. Apart from the gold in the alluvial, the metal was found in deposits in quartz. The rock was first made brittle by burning and then broken with hammers and crowbars. The pieces of rock were then further reduced in size and finally ground to stone powder by means of hand mills. It was from this powder that the gold was washed, and for this the main problem was the acquisition of water, which was brought by caravans, taken from specially-built cisterns, or provided by the long-awaited rain.
Remains of an ancient gold mine with the traces of over 1300 workers’ huts have been found near Al Fawachir. Most of them originate from Ptolemaic times, i.e. from approximately 300 BC. As in the other Egyptian mines and quarries, slaves, convicts and prisoners of war were the laborers. Today’s Wadi Allaqi is the site of another famous gold mine. In 1831 and 1832, the voyagers Linant who published some interesting travel notes - and Bonomi found a deserted gold mine with shafts, cisterns for the collection of rainwater, stone tables for washing the gold and approximately 300 huts in which granite hand mills for the grinding of quartz grains were still preserved.
These Nubian mines were considered important as early as the reign of Sesostris I (approximately 1950 BC). An inscription by Sethis I (approximately 1308-1298 BC) mentions the gold mine in the Deschebel Zebra, the starting point of 21 road to the Nile Valley. And Ramses II (1292-1225 BC) had a well dug to provide the gold caravans from the Wadi Allaqi with water these witnesses confirm the interest of the Egyptian rulers in the winning of gold, which no longer served solely as adornment for sacred idols in the inner precincts of the temples. In addition to its religious significance, gold had gained a definite economic and political importance. The Marana plates, plates of cuneiform writing which date from 1400 BC and were discovered in 1886 in a mine in Tel el Amana, mentioned the export of gold several times. The gold houses of the temple precincts have been mentioned in inscriptions as early as the Middle Kingdom (from 2000 BC), and “Syrian” gold was preserved there since the New Kingdom (from 1555 BC). This gold may have been received as tribute like the ten gold bars found in Tod. Golden tributes were also paid by Nubia to Amenophis II (approx. 1438-1412 BC); this was preceded by the hazardous gold expedition of the famous queen Hatshepsut.
Writer – Louise Gnadinger