Prehistoric Gold in Europe

Volume 280 of the series NATO ASI Series pp 65-76

The Rise and Fall of Gold Metallurgy in the Copper Age of the Carpathian Basin: The Background of the Change

  • J. MakkayAffiliated withInstitute of Archeology

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The paper deals with the different use of gold and copper in the Early and Middle Copper Age on one side and the Late Copper Age cultures of the Carpathian Basin on the other side. Transylvania was in the antiquity one of the richest gold mining areas of Eurasia. This is demonstrated on the basis of Roman and Medieval texts, expecially on hand of those about the Decebalus gold treasure found by the troups of Trajan in 106 A.D.

In strong contrast to the wide use of gold (and also of copper) in the very gold rich area of Transylvania during Early and especially Middle Copper Age cultures (i.e. the Tiszapolgár and Bodrogkeresztúr and their corresponding cultures in other parts of the Carpathian Basin, among others the Lasinja culture in Transdanubia with its gold discs) there is no trace of the use of gold in the Late Copper Age. In the Late Copper Age also a very strong decrease in the number and also weight of the copper artifacts can be observed, too, and it is very remarkable that the few copper objects were daggers. This stays to indicate wartime or at least a continuing armed unrest during Late Copper Age. Invasions, conquests and similar events never promote production, accumulation, hoarding and public use of gold.