Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gold Series: Home on the Range

The rumor of gold has forever raised pulses. The allure it holds over us, the ability within a lucky strike in the earth to create an overnight success has driven men to unimaginable lengths.

In the 16th century the Spanish plundered South and Central America for the gold of the ancient Inca and Aztec civilizations, melting down elaborate statues into easily transported blocks – thus erasing priceless cultural artifacts and slaughtering thousands. (Pictured right: Hernan Cortez, who destroyed the Aztec civilization with only a few hundred men with firearms and horses.)

But it is the gold rushes in the U.S. that we are most familiar with, after all it is because of this thirst for gold that many major cities came into being. The first important discovery of gold in the U.S. was in North Carolina in 1799. More gold was found later in Georgia in 1827. These discoveries produced so much gold, that the U.S. mint had to open additional branches to accommodate this gold influx.

The greatest gold rush of all brought 40,000 miners to California and Nevada in 1849 alone. Diggers came from all corners of the globe, from China, to Australia, to Europe.

In 9 years, over 820 tonnes was extracted from the Sacramento Valley alone. Almost half a million people moved to the area during the Gold Rush, all headed for a state which had still been a part of Mexico when it had begun. Settlers carved into the wilderness to create infrastructure in a place that had little development. To this day, some of the deepest gold shafts exist in North America, due to the famed "Mother Lode of California' - an extensive network of gold veins borne over 100million years ago.

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