At some point before life crawled out of the ocean, some alien alchemist managed to turn all of the lead on the earth into gold. Galena becomes some sort of Electrum, and any existing Anglesite and Cerussite separate into gold and sulfates or carbonates. What are the most significant (history/paradigm-changing) technological advancements that would be stunted or stopped entirely without the existence of terrestrial lead?

The easy implications seem to be:

  1. Gold is 3500x more plentiful by mass, so it probably never becomes a precious metal. Likewise, it likely replaces copper in electrical applications.
  2. Certain types of glazed ceramics may never have been created.
  3. Plumbing (and thus metropolises) would have taken longer to be invented, as gold is nowhere near as ductile for use as pipes in aquaducts.
  4. The printing press would be significantly delayed, as nothing is quite as cheap and suited for printmaking as lead lettering blocks.

What other significant technological advancements would have been changed by both lead not existing and gold being 3500x more plentiful?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think this is REALLY broad - you're asking to track down and document all uses of lead throughout history and try and think of what would change if it wasn't there. That would also have impact on later uses of lead. At the same time, gold would be plentiful which itself has an impact on manufacturing and economics. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Mar 7 '19 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ AFAIK question like "What effect would X have on society" are considered too broad. Maybe you could narrow it down to a single field of lead application and the consequences in that field? $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Mar 7 '19 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ The related questions on the side of this page probably have all the answers you will need. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Mar 7 '19 at 14:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "That site" is not trustworthy in matters historical. FYI, Julius Caesar's (legitimate) bloodline ended with him, but not because of sterility. He had a daughter who died before him, and, a son who was assassinated (after Caesar's death) for political reasons. Octavian and the subsequent emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty were not descended from Julius Caesar. Moreover, in the Roman Empire (before the 3rd century or thereabouts) the transmission of imperial power from father to son was much more an exception than a rule, the empire being officially a republic. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 7 '19 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ I have narrowed it down to 'most significant technological advances' in hopes of narrowing it down. And I have removed the Caesar reference, @AlexP. $\endgroup$ – Carduus Mar 7 '19 at 21:15

I would also add that gold is more resistant to corrosion than most other metals, and gold coating would be common. There would be less need for paint and the yellow glitter would be common.


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