Friday, June 5, 2015

Gold Rush in Cornwall

From the IndependentUK - David Keys

Cornwall was scene of prehistoric gold rush, says new research

A detailed analysis of some of Western Europe’s most beautiful gold artefacts suggests that Cornwall was a miniature Klondyke in the Early Bronze Age

Quick thoughts from the article:

"Geological estimates now indicate that up to 200 kilos of gold, worth in modern terms almost £5 million, was extracted in the Early Bronze Age from Cornwall and West Devon’s rivers – mainly between the 22nd and 17th centuries BC."

200 kilos comes out to around 440 lbs.  That's enough gold to create 200,000 wedding bands or a zillion hammer sheet trinkets that were so popular at this time.  At first the number seemed ridiculously low, but most goldwork at this time is foil and then you still need to take the human population in generations across the EBA and do some division.  1/4 ton is probably passable, but it would be the floor.

“The available evidence strongly suggests that in Bronze Age Cornwall and West Devon, tin wasn’t obtained through mining, but was instead extracted from the areas’ rivers, probably through panning or sophisticated damming and sluicing systems,” said Dr Standish. 
“But, as well as finding tin in the sand and gravels of the streams and rivers, they also found gold,” he added.
Indeed, fine woolly sheepskins may well have been used to ‘catch’ the tiny grains of both tin and gold – in a technique similar to that which, in ancient Greek mythology, probably gave rise to the concept of the Golden Fleece.
The authors seem to come to this clever conclusion by looking at the ratio of gold to tin among EBA artifacts mined from this area and the ratio of metals obtained through placer mining.


  1. awesome - i think soft metal mining/extraction in the early metal ages will turn out to be very significant.

    1. You did say several weeks ago that metallurgy was a driver for settlers. In this area that just might be the case. Lead, tin, gold and copper

    2. yes, people and shiny metal :)

      Klondyke 4000 BC