The oldest mine in the Americas

Published on May 20th, 2011 | by Admin

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ironoxide

Archaeologists have discovered a 12,000-year-old iron oxide mine in Chile that is the oldest known organized mining operation in the Americas.

An estimated 700 cubic meters and 2,000 tons of rock were extracted from the mine. Carbon dates for charcoal and shells found in the mine suggest it was used continuously from around 12,000 years ago to 10,500 years ago, and then used again around 4,300 years ago. The researchers also found more than 500 hammerstones dating back to the earliest use of the mine.

“The regular exploitation of [the site] for more than a millennium … indicates that knowledge about the location of the mine, the properties of its iron oxides, and the techniques required to exploit and process these minerals were transmitted over generations within the Huentelauquen Cultural Complex, thereby consolidating the first mining tradition yet known in America,” the researchers write. The find extends “by several millennia the mining sites yet recorded in the Americas.”

[Full story]

Story: Kevin Stacy, University of Chicago Press Journals | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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