lunes, 17 de marzo de 2014

Georgia: What’s Worth More – Gold or Knowledge about Human Origins?

1/5. Researchers make measurements inside the Sakrisi-Kachagiani ancient gold mining site. (Photo: German Mining Museum)
A classic conflict is building in Georgia that pits matters of general interest against private gain, revolving around what many archeologists contend is the world’s oldest gold mine. Scientists and others want to preserve the area for further excavation and study. But the company that holds the mining rights to the site is more interested in seeing its investment pay off.

The nine-hectare site, called Sakdrisi-Kachagiani, lies several kilometers from Dmanisi, a tiny village in the Kvemo Kartli region about 95 kilometers southwest of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. In 2004, archeologists from the National Museum of Georgia and the German Mining Museum unearthed caves and mining tools at Sakdrisi that are believed to date to the third millennium, BC - a find that predates Egyptian mining artifacts. More broadly, the area around Dmanisi is perhaps the most significant archeological site outside of Africa when it comes to studying early species of humans. A skull discovered at Dmanisi, for example, has prompted scientists to hypothesize that all Homo species had a single, shared lineage.

The archeological significance of Sakdrisi, however, means little to the Russian-owned mining company, RMG Gold, which holds the lease to excavate the site. For RMG, Sakdrisi’s chief value is in the estimated 20 tons of gold that lie under earth’s surface [...]

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