Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au (from its Latin name aurum) and atomic number 79. It is a highly sought-after precious metal which, for many centuries, has been used as money, a store of value and in jewelry. The metal occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks, underground veins and in alluvial deposits. It is one of the coinage metals. Gold is dense, soft, shiny and the most malleable and ductile of the known metals. Pure gold has a bright yellow color traditionally considered attractive.
Gold has been known and highly-valued since prehistoric times. It may have been the first metal used by humans and was valued for ornamentation and rituals. Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 2600 BC describe gold, which king Tushratta of the Mitanni claimed was more plentiful than dirt in Egypt. Egypt and especially Nubia had the resources to make them major gold-producing areas for much of history. The earliest known map is known as the Turin papyrus and shows the plan of a gold mine in Nubia together with indications of the local geology. The primitive working methods are described by Strabo and included fire-setting. Large mines also occurred across the Red Sea in what is now Saudi Arabia.