An elaborate gold belt buckle

Credit: Heather C. McCune Bruhn, 2017, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Resource Description

In this two-part module, developed by Heather McCune Bruhn and Sarah J. Townsend, we will explore gold. First we’ll look at gold as a substance and examine how it is obtained from the earth (along with some of the dangers and consequences involved). Next we'll examine what makes gold so important: its allure and symbolism in Prehistory, as well as in the Ancient and Medieval world. Then we'll look at the importance of Africa as a source of gold throughout the centuries before exploring some ways of working gold. Part II of this module examines the extraction of gold in the Amazonian region of South America, focusing on its impact on the environment, indigenous people, and the miners themselves.


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CC BY-NC 4.0

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Heather McCune Bruhn

Photograph of Heather McCune Bruhn

An artist and teacher from a family of artists and teachers, Dr. Heather McCune Bruhn started her academic career intending to become a painter. After receiving undergraduate degrees in Art History and Silkscreen Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University, she came to Penn State for her MA and PhD (2006) in Art History.

Her specialty is late Medieval goldsmithwork from Germany, a topic that she researched as a Fulbright grantee for one year in Cologne, Germany. This research helped to spark her interest in artistic technique, the meaning and function of works of art, the economics of art, and broader issues of historical and cultural context.

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Sarah J. Townsend

headshot of Sarah J. Townsend

Sarah J. Townsend is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Penn State-University Park, where she teaches courses such as Amazonia and Extractivism, Luso-Brazilian Theater Workshop, Latin American Modernisms and (Old) New Media, and Through the Looking-Glass: Race in the U.S. and Brazil. In broad terms, her work deals with the connections among culture, politics, and economics from the late nineteenth century to the present, a dynamic she most often explores through a focus on theater and/or other media technologies in Latin America. She is the co-editor of Stages of Conflict: A Critical Anthology of Latin American Theater and Performance (2008) and the author of The Unfinished Art of Theater: Avant-Garde Intellectuals in Mexico and Brazil (2018).

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