|The kingdom of Colchis lay in what is today the Republic of Georgia. Situated east of the Greek world, north of the Persian Empire, and southeast of the Scythians, the region was at a crossroads of cultures. Known in myth as the destination of Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece, Colchis was renowned as a region rich in gold.|
The Colchian settlement of Vani is situated inland from the eastern shore of the Black Sea, on a 200-meter-high hilltop flanked by deep ravines. The settlement is spread across three terraces and overlooks the fertile region between the Sulori and Rioni rivers.
|The earliest signs of human activity at Vani date to 700 B.C., but it is during the fifth century (500–400 B.C.) that the city's wealth becomes prominent. Vani appears to have served as the administrative center for the local Colchian elite, who would have overseen the agricultural economy.|
The series of graves for which Vani is renowned date to about 450–250 B.C. Thereafter, rich burials appear to cease.
|In Greek mythology, the Golden Fleece is the fleece of the gold-hair winged ram, which was held in Colchis. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship. It figures in the tale of the hero Jason and his band of Argonauts, who set out on a quest for the fleece by order of King Pelias, in order to place Jason rightfully on the throne of Iolcus in Thessaly.|
Some believe that the legend of the Golden Fleece was based on a practice of the Black Sea tribes; they would place a lamb's fleece at the bottom of a stream to entrap gold dust being washed down from upstream. This practice is still in use, particularly in the Svaneti region of Georgia.
|Prior to industrialization, it was expensive, dangerous, and labor intensive to harvest the mass quantities of salt necessary for food preservation and seasoning.|
This made salt an extremely valuable commodity. Entire economies were based solely on salt production and trade.
Ancient method of boiling brine into pure salt in China.
|In the Iron Age, the British evaporated salt by boiling seawater or brine from salt springs in small clay pots over open fires. |
Roman salt-making entailed boiling the seawater in large lead-lined pans.
The oldest salt mine known to date located in Azerbaijan.
Ancient Roman Glass Salt Dishes
|In ancient Rome, salt on the table was a mark of a very rich patron; those who sat nearer the host were "above the salt," and those less favored were "below the salt".|
Roman prisoners were given the task of salt mining, and life expectancy was low. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder stated as an aside in his Natural History's discussion of sea water, that "[I]n Rome ... the soldier's pay was originally salt and the word 'salary' derives from it ..."
Roman Salt Pans in Hortales.
|While bulldozing salt from the Chehrabad Salt Mine, Iranian miners recently uncovered the sixth "salt man" to be found in the last fifteen years. These "salt men" are ancient corpses killed or crushed in the cave and mummified by the extreme conditions. Hair, flesh and bone are all preserved by the dry salinity of the cave, and even internal organs such as stomachs and colons have been found intact.|
The first salt mummy, dated to 300 A.D., was discovered in 1993, sporting a long white beard, iron knives and a single gold earring. In 2004 another mummy was discovered only 50 feet away, followed by another in 2005 and a "teenage" boy mummy later that year. The oldest of the salt men found is truly ancient and has been carbon dated to 9550 B.C.
A salt waterfall in the Nemocon salt mine, Colombia. The mine is a popular tourist attraction.
Salar de Uyuni, the world’s biggest salt desert, in southwestern Bolivia.
The Maras salt mines in Cuzco, Peru. The Maras mines have been a source of salt since ancient pre-Incan civilizations and comprise about 3,000 small pools constructed on the slope of a mountain at the Urubamba valley in the Andean region of Cuzco.
Pools of mineral-colored water gathered on salt flats in holes dug by salt collectors on the Senegalese coastline. Women collect salt by hand into 50kg (110lbs) sacks, which sell for about $2. The salt is mainly used for preserving fish in areas without electricity
A truck drives between ponds at Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt Limited’s facility at Port Hedland, about 1,600 km (960 mi) north of Perth, Australia, on May 26, 2008.
A laborer works at a salt production factory in Nangqian county, northwest China’s Qinghai province.
Workers collect blocks of salt from the salt pan of Ethiopia’s Danakil depression. Generations of Afar salt merchants have hauled blocks of salt along camel caravan routes from the depression to the Tigray highlands.
The Saint Kinga’s Chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland. The historic mine extends for a total of about 300 km (186 miles) and functioned continuously since the Middle Ages until 1996, when it was finally depleted.
|The art of fashioning gold quartz into objects is unique to the western United States, primarily California. Gold quartz canes appeared at the time of the California Gold Rush.|
Most gold quartz canes were presentation pieces. Never mass produced, gold quartz canes were created as an expression of pride by individuals of status.
This California Gold Quartz cane presented by Carleton E. Watkins to his father, J.M. Watkins, in 1869 sold for an impressive $6,545 in 2011.
|One of the most famous coins to come out of this era is the Horseman (Vacquero) design by Baldwin and Company of San Francisco.|
Genuine, original Baldwin Horsemen are valuable. A publicized example in uncirculated condition realized $195,000 at a Goldberg Auction.