|In 2004, German archaeologists from Ruhr-University Bochum discovered the gold mine in Sakdrissi, Georgia. Dated to the third millennium BC, it is one of the oldest known gold mines in the world and has been deemed the most important prehistoric mining site in Europe. Using stone hammers and antler picks the Bronze Age miners worked the mine to obtain the precious metal.|
|The mine is 150 feet below the surface and the walls show fire-setting and crushing work with hammers. Research has determined that it was in use for 600 years between 3,400 BC and 2,800 BC.|
A remarkable array of finds within the mine allowed a detailed understanding of how the ore was mined, processed and prepared for use over 5000 years ago.
|The initial excavation at the gold mine was complemented by work on an Early Bronze Age settlement and the nearby area of Dmanisi is a significant site for the study of human origins. Early human fossils discovered at Dmanisi, dubbed Homo georgicus, were found between 1991 and 2005. At 1.8 million years old, H. georgicus may have been a separate species of Homo, predating Homo erectus, and represent the earliest stage of human presence in the Caucasus.|
The hominid remains are the oldest found outside of Africa. Then, last year, archaeologists made another dramatic discovery, a fifth skull which prompted scientists to hypothesise that all Homo species may not have been multiple human species at all, but instead variants of a single species.
|Although the site had been given protection according to Georgian Heritage laws in 2006, the election of a new government saw pressure put on the ministry of culture. A commission was set up at the beginning of June 2013 to remove the status of Sakdrissi as a protected monument. |
A gold mining company called RMG Limited have now obtained the mineral rights. Its proposed opencast gold mine will swallow the area of prehistoric mining.
|In a letter to the Georgian government, Professor Dr Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and German Association of Archaeology, said: “Sakdrisi is the oldest gold mine worldwide and therefore a unique heritage site not only of Georgia, but of mankind. It should not be sacrificed to pure economic interests.” He added, “not just Georgia, also Europe, will lose one of its most important prehistoric mining sites forever.”|
|As the country of the “Golden Fleece”, it includes the western part of Georgia, Colchis, a name synonymous, in ancient times, with an abundance of gold. The giant Prometheus, the first ever “metallurgist”, was chained to the rocks of the Caucasus by the gods, and even today archaeologists are overwhelmed by the abundance of metals in the prehistoric find complexes in this region.|