Research Task: Metals
By Megan Forbes
Figure 1 Evidence of gold mines: Ancient Egyptian map showing roads to Nubian gold mines, dated 1400-1200 BC (Located in the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy) Figure 1 Evidence of gold mines: Ancient Egyptian map showing roads to Nubian gold mines, dated 1400-1200 BC (Located in the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy) Figure 2 Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depicting gold
Figure 2 Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depicting gold
i) Gold was no doubt one of the first metals known to primitive man. The metal gold was first discovered by the ancient Egyptians, some 5000 years ago. The Egyptians associated metal with the sun and believed the gold to be divine and indestructible. They believed the skin of their gods was golden and the Pharaoh was called “the Golden Horus”. It was believed to be the flesh of the sun god, Ra, and was, thus, considered a symbol of eternal life. It was this association with Ra and eternal life that compelled pharaohs and queens to exploit the gold in their kingdom and to accumulate it and be buried with large stores of the metal. During the earliest periods of Egyptian history, only kings were allowed to wear golden ornaments but the privilege was later extended to priests and other members of the royal court. (Creamer, 2008). Never tarnishing, gold was also used extensively in the making of statues of gods and was even used to decorate temples. The ancient Egyptians did not use gold for currency and it had no economic importance. Evidence that the ancient Egyptians had gold is in the archaeological finds of the earliest known map, The Turin Papyrus map. This map showed an early gold mining facility and a local geography of a region in Nubia. Early Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 2600 BC described gold as “more plentiful than dirt” and as a divine and indestructible metal, associated with the brilliance of the sun. (Azulay, 2012).
i) Gold is widespread in low concentrations in all igneous rocks and has been discovered on every continent on earth. (Yabz, 2008). When gold was first discovered it was found in many forms, just like it is today. Native gold can occur as very small microscopic particles embedded in rock, often together with quartz or sulphite minerals. Gold in the native state is also found in the form of free flakes, grains or larger nuggets that have ended up in alluvial deposits due to eroding from rocks. Gold is a ‘transition metal’ on the periodic table of elements and is a group 11 element. It is one of the least reactive elements when solid and under standard conditions; it does not combine with oxygen or dissolve in most acids. It does not react with halogens, such as chlorine or bromine (Mazur, 2007). The element therefore occurs commonly in native form. On the periodic table of elements, gold is surrounded by other non- reactive metals such as silver and platinum. Because gold is non-reactive it was able to be discovered and mined many centuries ago.
ii) Figure 3 Examples of items made from gold that date back to Ancient Egyptian times Figure 3 Examples of items made from gold that date back to Ancient Egyptian times Figure 2 Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamen’s solid gold burial mask Figure 2 Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamen’s solid gold burial mask Gold is both ductile and malleable. Ductile means it can be drawn into thin wires. Malleable means capable of being hammered into thin sheets. A piece of gold weighing only 20 grams can be hammered into a sheet that will cover more than 6 square meters. The sheet will be only 0.00025 centimetres thick. Gold is also very soft; it reflects light and heat but conducts electricity very well (Mazur, 2007). For the ancient Egyptians, gold had many uses including, burial masks- evidence of this is in Tutankhamen’s famous solid gold mask, found in his coffin in 1922. The metal is so malleable and soft it could be hammered into thin sheet and wires, perfect for...
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