Why does it seem to be that gold was so abundant in the ancient world?

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It’s seems to be that gold is pretty common to find in the ancient world regardless of the culture. Statues, jewelry, clothing, etc. However gold just doesn’t seem to be all that abundant. So what happened? Why did gold become so much more rare as time went on, or has it always been this rare? Where were all the major gold mines in the ancient world and are they depleted?

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Gold and silver was used as cash. So people would keep their gold and silver with them and easily accessible, even showing it off. It would also be traded a lot, a lot of the jewelry you are talking about would change hands about once a month so the same jewelry would be seen on different people throughout the year.

Today we have a lot of gold and silver, a lot more then they had in the ancient world. However it is all locked away in vaults. Gold is inconvenient to lug around. And it might even look kind of cheap and tacky. If you look at someone with five gold rings and a gold chain you would consider them stupid for not investing that gold in something to make more money.

Survivor Bias.

Gold is a non-corrosive metal. If you make stuff out of wood, it decays. Out of iron, it rusts. Out of bronze, it corrodes, but much slower than iron so there are many bronze artifacts. But gold items are as nice today as the day they were made. Gold was rare and expensive, so nice things were made of it. That doesn’t mean everything was nice and gold, but only the stuff that survived.

>It’s seems to be that gold is pretty common to find in the ancient world regardless of the culture. Statues, jewelry, clothing, etc. However gold just doesn’t seem to be all that abundant. So what happened? Why did gold become so much more rare as time went on, or has it always been this rare? Where were all the major gold mines in the ancient world and are they depleted?

Gold is rare and has always been rare. It is, however **common enough** to be found in significant quantities from time to time. Combine that with the following things and it explains why gold has, throughout history, been popular:

1. It is unreactive, i.e. it occurs in its elementary form and only has to be **collected** – there is no refinement process that had to be discovered or developed.
2. It’s *pretty*. Since it doesn’t corrode it also *stays* pretty.
3. It’s comparatively easy to work. Artisans can do anything with it!
4. It’s common enough to be useful but rare enough to remain stable in value – perfect currency material!

There was more gold per person, though more gold has been extracted in modern times there are now millions (billions) more people.

Population and proportions.

Most of what we see in the ancient world are the elites – because these were the people who were literate and left enduring writing, who could afford monumental tombs, etc. These people rarely bothered writing much about the commoners.

Commoners also make up a much larger proportion of the population than poor people do in the modern day – you need 90% or more to just farm to keep society rolling. On top of that, populations are much smaller than in modern times. As a result, the elite (who make up basically all the records we have) which can afford gold is *very small*, and consequently has potential access to a lot of gold per person.