What happens when a nation's opportunity for cultural enrichment is in direct conflict with an opportunity for financial prosperity?
That is a question Georgians have been grappling with since their government gave permission for industrial excavation to start at what scientists claim is the oldest known gold mine in the world.
According to the BBC:
'The archaeological area, known as Sakdrisi, is a small grassy hill in the Bolnisi region, in the picturesque foothills of south-eastern Georgia. For 10 years Professor Thomas Stoellner, a leading specialist in mining archaeology from the University of Bochum, Germany, has been studying the archaeological record at Sakdrisi together with his Georgian colleagues.
"When we went to do the first survey we found hammer stones - typical mining tools - thousands of them," says Prof Stoellner, who believes that tunnels inside the hill date back 5,400 years.
"At once I realised the importance of the site. When we got the first value carbon dates, and they were around 3,000 BC, it was clear that this was an exciting find which had never occurred in pre-historic mining."'
This is certainly a discovery of considerable cultural significance and offers the opportunity not only to learn more about Georgia's past but also to invest in the education of its youth and develop scientific and archaeological studies around the site.
Unfortunately it appears Georgia has made up its mind. Despite a protest camp that was set up in mid-April which is still in full swing, they will proceed with mining on the site as company RMG Gold has already invested $300m in the project.
I'm sure that this is not the first time the status of being a 'protected cultural heritage site' has been both a blessing and a curse for a nation's government and in the long run, if and when the money runs out, hindsight will be 20/20 in this case.
'Georgia's Gold Mine Dilemma' >