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27 June 2012
3,300-year-old gold trove sparks archeological dispute

A 3,300-year-old cache of gold was found early this year in a field in the Gessel district of Lower Saxony, in northern Germany. The 117 pieces together weigh 1.8 kilograms, and consist of some jewellery, but mostly spirals of gold wire tied in chains of 10 spirals each and stacked tightly in a linen cloth. Tests conducted by chemist Robert Lehmann indicate that the gold came from a mine in Central Asia - in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan or Uzbekistan.
     Ernst Pernicka, known for his groundbreaking metallurgical studies on the famous Nabra sky disk, calls Lehmann's conclusions 'highly speculative,' pointing out that Lehmann could only compare the Gessel find with a few Scythian gold coins. However there is plenty of evidence of globalised trade more than 3,000 years ago. Valuable metals such as tin, copper, gold and silver were a favourite among long-distance traders, who dragged them across the continent in rucksacks or on oxcarts. Says state archaeologist Henning Hassmann, "Trips of 10,000 kilometres were nothing to them."
     Hassmann suspects that the gold was initially brought in caravans from the mountains to the nearby Indus Valley - where a giant riparian culture flourished until about 1800 BCE - and from there by ship to Mesopotamia. This could explain the origins of the myth of the Argonauts, who sail through the Black Sea to steal the Golden Fleece.

Edited from Spiegel Online (21 June 2012)

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