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NAME 

  DATE 

Economics of History Activity

  CLASS 

netw rks

African Civilizations
Lesson 2  Africa's Governments and Religions

The Value of Gold
Background Information

Directions  Answer the following questions.

1. Identifying  What is the earliest recorded date that gold
was found?

Copyright by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

During his journey to Makkah in a.d. 1324, Mansa Musa’s caravan carried
large amounts of gold. Mansa Musa gave away so much gold to the poor
that the price of gold fell. However, the history of gold actually begins
thousands of years before Mansa Musa’s journey.
Some of the earliest reliable accounts indicate that gold was found in Egypt
and Mesopotamia around 4000 b.c. Since then, people have viewed gold as
a symbol of power and wealth. As early as 3000 b.c., people began to use
gold rings as a form of money. Although Egypt was the primary location of
gold mining, people also found gold in places outside of Africa, such as
present-day France, Ireland, and India. Gold had another use besides
money. Artisans used gold to decorate items such as jewelry, statues, and
weapons.
Over time, people developed new techniques for mining and refining gold.
Some early mining techniques required a significant amount of labor. For
example, in a.d. 100 as many as 40,000 enslaved people worked to mine
gold in Spain. By the 1800s, scientists had developed methods of refining
gold that made the process easier and more efficient. The world’s largest
discovery of gold took place in 1886 in a region of South Africa known as
the Witwatersrand. By 1899, this massive deposit had produced one
quarter of the world’s gold. By 1985, that figure had increased to 40
percent.
A gold standard is a type of monetary system. In this kind of system, the
standard unit of money is established as a set amount of gold. That is, the
value of a country’s money is equal to how much gold a country has and
how much that gold is worth. The United States used a gold standard
several times in its history, although it no longer does so. The use of a  
gold standard proved to be unstable and at times placed the nation at an
economic disadvantage. The United States last used the gold standard  
in 1971.

NAME 

  DATE 

Economics of History Activity  Cont.

  CLASS 

netw rks

African Civilizations
2. Explaining  Where and when did the world’s largest
discovery of gold take place?

Critical Thinking
3. Determining Cause and Effect  Why do you think people
worked to develop new techniques for mining and refining
gold?

4. Making Inferences  For a country using the gold
standard, how would changes in the price of gold affect the
value of that country’s money?

Copyright by The McGraw-Hill Companies.