National Geographic : 1985 Sep
To prove his right to the Golden Fleece, Jason was challenged by King Aeetes of Colchis to yoke a pairof bronze-hooved, fire-breathingbulls, plant serpent'steeth, then slay the army that arose.Aided by the magic of the king's daughter,Medea, Jason accomplishedthe task (bottom). Bronze Age sites along the Rioni have yielded evidence of a bull cult.A strong ram cult flourished nearby.A bronze ram's head totem (below, upper) dates from the 18th century B.C . In the fourth century B.C ., goldsmiths molded the region's treasure into ram's head bracelets (below, center). RAM'S HEADTOTEM ANDBRACELETSFROM GEORGIANSTATEMUSEUM, BY SETH MORTIMER;JOHN EGAN(ABOVE LEFT);SKETCHBY JAMESM. GURNEY Gilding the fleece, a retiredprospector in northernGeorgia (above) demonstrateshow a pegged sheepskin was once used to extract gold particlesfrom rivers rushingthroughthe CaucasusMountains. Abandoned in the 1930s, the practicewas described as early as the first century B.C . by the Greek geographerStrabo, who cited it as the basis of the myth ofJasonand the Golden Fleece.