The Newly Discovered 4500 Year Old Gold Road Across Britain
National Museum of Ireland
Bronze Age necklace and discs
Archaeologists discover evidence
of prehistoric gold trade routeArchaeologists have found evidence of an ancient gold trade route between the south-west of the UK and Ireland. A study suggests people were trading gold between the two countries as far back as the early Bronze Age (2500 BC).
Credit: Chris StandishPanning for gold in Ireland.
"It is unlikely that knowledge of how to extract gold didn't exist in Ireland, as we see large scale exploitation of other metals. It is more probable that an 'exotic' origin was cherished as a key property of gold and was an important reason behind why it was imported for production."
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Dr Standish says: "Perhaps what is most interesting is that during this time, compared to Ireland, there appears to be much less gold circulating in Cornwall and southern Britain. This implies gold was leaving the region because those who found it felt it was of more value to trade it in for other 'desirable' goods -- rather than keep it."
Today, gold is intrinsically linked with economic wealth, is universally exchangeable and underpins currencies and economies across much of the globe. However, gold may not always have had this value -- in some societies, gold was seen to embody supernatural or magical powers, playing a major role in belief systems rather than economic ones. The value and significance placed on gold may have varied from region to region.
Dr Alistair Pike, a co-author from the University of Southampton, adds: "The results of this study are a fascinating finding. They show that there was no universal value of gold, at least until perhaps the first gold coins started to appear nearly two thousand years later. Prehistoric economies were driven by factors more complex than the trade of commodities -- belief systems clearly played a major role."
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