Villagers who collected gold in sheepskins inspired legend of Jason’s voyage
Jason and the Argonauts’ mythic quest for the Golden Fleece took inspiration from an actual voyage sometime between 3,300 and 3,500 years ago, scientists say. Jason went from Greece to a kingdom near the Black Sea renowned for using sheepskins to collect gold grains and flakes from mountain streams.
Mountain streams in the Svaneti region of Georgia carry bits of gold and gold-specked gravel that erode out of bordering rock formations, say geologist Avtandil Okrostsvaridze of Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, and his colleagues. Local villagers put sheepskins in these streams to catch floating gold, a technique that goes back thousands of years — suggesting that the region is the province of the ancient Colchis Kingdom, the Argonauts’ destination in Greek mythology, the researchers conclude November 20 in Quaternary International.