It is impossible to know the exact date that humans first began to mine gold, but some of the oldest known gold artifacts were found in the Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria. The graves of the necropolis were built between 4700 and 4200 BC, indicating that gold mining could be at least 7000 years old. A group of German and Georgian archaeologists claims the Sakdrisi site in southern Georgia, dating to the 3rd or 4th millennium BC, may be the world’s oldest known gold mine.
Bronze age gold objects are plentiful, especially in Ireland and Spain, and there are several well known possible sources. Romans used hydraulic mining methods, such as hushing and ground sluicing on a large scale to extract gold from extensive alluvial (loose sediment) deposits, such as those at Las Medulas. Mining was under the control of the state but the mines may have been leased to civilian contractors some time later. The gold served as the primary medium of exchange within the empire, and was an important motive in the Roman invasion of Britain by Claudius in the first century AD, although there is only one known Roman gold mine at Dolaucothi in west Wales. Gold was a prime motivation for the campaign in Dacia when the Romans invaded Transylvania in what is now modern Romania in the second century AD. The legions were led by the emperor Trajan, and their exploits are shown on Trajan’s Column in Rome and the several reproductions of the column elsewhere (such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London). Under the Eastern Roman Empire Emperor Justinian’s rule, gold was mined in the Balkans, Anatolia, Armenia, Egypt, and Nubia.