Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

12.3 Gold Throughout History


12.3: Gold throughout history

Gold has been valued, sought, and fought over throughout history. Help your kids pick a specific event to research. Then have them share what they‘ve learned with one another, give a presentation to the club, and/or write a brief report about it for the club newsletter. The Mineral Information Institute (MII) has a terrific little packet all about gold on their web site that you can download for free. It includes a timeline about gold through recorded history, as well as all sorts of other facts about gold, and even a coloring page of a prospector panning for gold in a stream alongside his trusty burro. Here are a few historic events you may wish to pick from to assign a topic, or you can let kids explore and find an event on their own:

In the 14th century B.C., Tutankhamun ("King Tut" was pharaoh of Egypt, and when Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon discovered his tomb in 1922, they found spectacular gold items that have come to be known as the "Treasures of Tutankhamun". Have kids find out what‘s included among those treasures.

Have you heard the story of the Golden Fleece of Jason and the Argonauts in Greek mythology? The story is believed to have its roots in the practice of using sheepskin to recover gold dust from river sands feeding into the Black Sea in 1200 BC.

In 300 BC, the Greeks and Jews of ancient Alexandria started the practice of alchemy, or the effort to turn common metals like lead into precious gold. The quest continued and intensified—to no avail—with Medieval alchemists.

The lure of gold is said to have been one cause of the Second Punic Wars between the Roman Empire, which had few gold resources, and Carthage, which was expanding its colonial empire in Hispania, or gold-rich Spain, around 200 BC.

In 1511, King Ferdinand of Spain launched massive expeditions of Conquistadores to bring back all the gold to be found in the New World; most was obtained by plundering Aztec and Inca treasuries of Mexico and Peru. It also led to quests for the mythical country of El Dorado, where the streets were said to be lined in gold.

A gold rush started in North Carolina in 1803, sparked in part by the 1799 discovery of a 17-pound nugget by a 12-year-old boy in Cabarrus County. Before the discovery of gold in California, North Carolina had become known as the "Golden State", and prior to 1829, all the gold coined at the Philadelphia mint was from North Carolina.

The Forty-Niner Gold Rush that brought so many adventurers to California and eventually led to California statehood started when flakes of gold were found in 1848 during construction of a sawmill for John Sutter along a river near Sacramento.

The impact of gold discoveries in the Black Hills of South Dakota in the 1860s and 1870s led, among other things, to Custer‘s Last Stand.

Another gold rush was sparked with discoveries in Cripple Creek, Colorado, in 1892.

The discovery of gold by two prospectors in the Klondike of Canada‘s Yukon Territory sparked a rush into the cold regions of Western Canada and Alaska in 1898.

A couple of neat books geared to kids are Kalman‘s Life in the Old West: The Gold Rush and Diamond Dan Publications‘ Gold! – An Activity Book for Young Prospectors.

Note: Kids who give a presentation or write an article can use this activity toward earning their Communication badge simultaneously (Activities 7.1 and 7.2).