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until the gold comes out quite pure. Other workmen then take it away by weight and measure, and putting it with a fixed proportion of lead, salt, a little tin, and barley bran, into earthen crucibles well closed with clay, leave it in a furnace for five successive days and nights; after which it is suffered to cool. The crucibles are then opened, and nothing is found in them but the pure gold, a little diminished in quantity.
"Such is the method of extracting the gold on the confines of Egypt, the result of so many and such great toils. Nature, indeed, teaches that as gold is obtained with immense labour, so it is kept with difficulty, creating great anxiety, and attended in its use both with pleasure and grief."
In the early stages of society when gold first began to be used, idols, ornaments, or other objects, were made of the metal in its pure state, till being found too soft, and too easily worn away, an alloy was added to harden it, at the same time that it increased the bulk of the valuable material. As men advanced in experience, they found that the great ductility of gold enabled them to cover substances of all kinds with thin plates of the metal, giving all the effect of the richness and brilliancy they admired in solid gold ornaments; and the gilding of bronze, stone, silver, and wood, was speedily adopted.
The leaves so used were at first thick, but skill, resulting from experience, soon showed to what a degree of fineness they could be reduced; and we find that in Egypt substances of various kinds were overlaid with fine gold leaf at a very remote period, even in the time of the first Osirtasen. Some things still continued to be covered with thick leaf, but this was from choice, and not in consequence of any want of skill in the workmen; and in the early age of Thothmes III. they were already acquainted with the various methods of overlaying with gold leaf, gilding, inlaying, and beating gold into other metals, previously tooled with devices to receive it.
That the practice of applying it in leaf was common when the Israelites were in the country is evident from the direct mention of it in the Bible, the ark of shittim wood made by Moses being overlaid with pure gold; and the casting of the metal is noticed on the same occasion; nor can we doubt that the art was derived
by the Jews from Egypt, or that the Egyptians had long before been acquainted with all those secrets of metallurgy, in which the specimens that remain prove them to have so eminently excelled.
The method devised by the Egyptians for beating out the leaf is unknown to us, but from the extreme fineness of some of that covering wooden and other ornaments found at Thebes, we may conclude it was done nearly in the same way as formerly in Europe, between parchment; and perhaps some membrane taken from the intestines of animals was also employed by them.
In Europe the skin of an unborn calf was at first substituted for the parchment previously used, but in the beginning of the 17th century, the German gold-beaters having obtained a fine pellicle from the entrails of cattle, found that they could beat gold much thinner than before, and this still continues to be used, and is known to us under the name of gold-beaters' skin. "About the year 1621," says Beckmann, "Merunne excited general astonishment, when he showed that the Parisian gold-beaters could beat an ounce of gold into sixteen hundred leaves, which together covered a surface of one hundred and five square feet. But in 1711, when the pellicles discovered by the Germans came to be used in Paris, Réaumur found that an ounce of gold in the form of a cube, five and a quarter lines at most in length, breadth, and thickness, and which covered only a surface of about 27 square lines, could be so extended by the gold-beaters as to cover a surface of more than 1466 square feet. This extension, therefore, is nearly one half more than was possible about a century before."
Many gilt bronze vases, implements of various kinds, trinkets, statues, toys, and other objects, in metal and wood, have beer. discovered in the tombs of Thebes: the faces of mummies are frequently found overlaid with thick gold-leaf; the painted cloth, the wooden coffin, were also profusely ornamented in this manner, and sometimes the whole body itself of the deceased, previous to its being enveloped in the bandages. Not only were small objects appertaining to the service of the gods, and connected with religion, or articles of luxury and show, in the temples, tombs, or private houses, so decorated; the sculptures on the lofty walls of an adytum, the ornaments of a colossus, the
doorways of a temple, and parts of numerous large monuments were likewise covered with gilding, of which the wooden heifer which served as a sepulchre to the body of king Mycerinus's daughter, some of the mouldings in the temple of Kalabshi in Nubia, the statue of Minerva sent to Cyrone by Amasis, and portions of the Sphinx at the Pyramids may be cited as instances.
Gold is supposed to have been used for money some time before silver. In Egypt it was evidently known before silver, this being called "white gold;" and it was there the representative of money; while in Hebrew, kussuf, "silver," signified "money,' like "argent" in French. In neither case was the money coined in early times. Gold was perhaps first stamped by the Lydians; but the oldest known Greek coins are the silver ones of Ægina, with a tortoise on one side.
Much gold was used for ornamental purposes. Its richness, durability, and freedom from tarnish, led the ancients to employ it very generally, and to a greater extent than in modern times, when South America has given us the abundance, and the name, of plate." Silver was chiefly confined to money; and the demand for gold in houses (Plin. xxxiii. 17), and in jewellery, left silver free for the currency, and for a few other purposes. But though gold was preferred, it is still singular that so few pieces of silver plate seem to have been made by the Greeks and Romans.
The Egyptian sculptures represent silver as well as gold vases and ornaments, in the time of the third Thothmes, and silver rings and trinkets have been found of the same epoch; but gold was the favourite metal in Egypt, as afterwards in Greece and Rome and the rich frequently had ornamental works, statues, and furniture of solid gold. Those who could not afford them were satisfied to have bronze overlaid with gold, at first with a thick, in after times with a thin coating, until in time gold-beating brought the external appearance of gold within the reach of less wealthy people; and gold leaf in modern days covers the wooden ornaments of the humblest house. Now that gold is in greater abundance, we may look to its coming again into more general use, instead of silver; which sinks into the appearance of pewter by
the side of that rich metal; and to its taking the place of some of our paltry imitations.
If the use of gold preceded that of silver, the latter was not long in following it; and the earliest authority, the Bible, mentions both at a remote age. Abraham was said to have been very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold; " Abimelech gave him a thousand pieces of the former; and the use of silver as money is distinctly pointed out in the purchase of the field of Ephron, with its cave, which Abraham bought for "four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant." On this occasion, as usual, the price paid was settled by weight, which was the origin and meaning of the name shekel; and the custom of weighing money was retained among the Egyptians, Hebrews, and other Eastern people, till a late period. Indeed, until a government stamp, or some fixed value, was given to money, this could be the only method of ascertaining the price paid, and of giving satisfaction to both parties. Thus Joseph's brethren,
when they discovered the money returned into their sacks, brought it back to Egypt, observing that it was "in full weight;" and the paintings of Thebes frequently represent persons in the act of weighing gold, on the purchase of articles in the market.
Egyptian money was in rings of gold and silver, a kind of currency that continues to this day in Sennaar and the neighbouring countries; but it is uncertain whether any of them had a government stamp to denote their purity or their value; and though so commonly represented, none have yet been found in the ruins or tombs of Thebes. They remind us of the "ring (nuzm) of gold" in Job (xlii. 11), given him with "a piece of money" by his friends.
Gold when brought as tribute was often in bags, which were deposited in the royal treasury. These doubtless contained gold dust, which is mentioned by Job (xxviii. 6) as a well knowr. form of that metal; and this is confirmed by "pure gold" being written over them. Though sealed, and warranted to contain a certain quantity, they were subjected to the usual ordeal of the scales by the cautious Egyptians. Money was sometimes kept ready weighed in known quantities for certain occasions, which, when intended as a present, or when the honesty of the person was beyond suspicion, did not require to be weighed; as when