Mining in ancient ages

Jul 2019
6
Turkey
#1
Hello everyone, I'm new in this forum. I'm so happy I have finally found a platform to talk history with people!

I've also posted this thread to New Users. I don't know the rules of the forum yet, if it's forbidden to post on two place at the same time I can delete one.

In this thread I want to ask some questions about mining and providing and crafting of metals & stones in general in ancient ages. I'm not sure if "ancient ages" is an unclear term, I'm simply trying to refer to Roman antiquity and also middle ages.

My questions are;
1- How important was it to hold a mining source (copper, iron, gold etc.) for an authority in those ages?
2- Who was organising the mining operation and how?
3- Were there professionals for mining?
4- Were all miners slaves?
5- How was the logistics for this operation arrenged?
6- How did the smiths provide metals for themselves? Were they buying it themselves or being provided by the local authority in exchange of working for them?
7- Were the smiths running their private business or working for the local government?
8- How expensive and hard to produce those metal products (sword, chain mail, helmet etc.) were?

If anyone have any info about any of the questions above, I would be grateful for your help.

Thank you.
 
Aug 2016
977
US&A
#4
Hello everyone, I'm new in this forum. I'm so happy I have finally found a platform to talk history with people!
Glad to have you here!

I've also posted this thread to New Users. I don't know the rules of the forum yet, if it's forbidden to post on two place at the same time I can delete one.
It is against the rules to double-post here, like it is for most online forums. The link to the rules is at the top of the page.

In this thread I want to ask some questions about mining and providing and crafting of metals & stones in general in ancient ages. I'm not sure if "ancient ages" is an unclear term, I'm simply trying to refer to Roman antiquity and also middle ages.
"Ancient Ages" is an incredibly broad term, and I guess I would call it unclear. I would usually use "ancient" to refer to the bronze-age or earlier.

My questions are;
1- How important was it to hold a mining source (copper, iron, gold etc.) for an authority in those ages?
What do you mean, "for an authority"? I think metal would be an incredibly valuable resource for a country at any time.

2- Who was organising the mining operation and how?
That depends on exactly when and where you're talking about. The time period you're asking about is over 1,000 years long, and different people had different techniques and styles of organization.

3- Were there professionals for mining?
That depends on what you mean by "professional". During Roman times, slaves were often used for mining. It was often considered a death sentence due to the dangers involved.

4- Were all miners slaves?
No. They had knowledgeable staff that would direct the others. Peasants and freemen might also work. They would demand better conditions than what a slave would receive.

5- How was the logistics for this operation arrenged?
People with a regular need for metal and people who could arrange it found each other and set up mutually beneficial agreements to deliver X amount of metal or metal ore in Y amount of time.

6- How did the smiths provide metals for themselves? Were they buying it themselves or being provided by the local authority in exchange of working for them?
Both, it sometimes depended on whether these smiths were working for themselves or providing a service for the government or some wealthy patron. Remember you are talking about a vast period of time.

7- Were the smiths running their private business or working for the local government?
Both.

8- How expensive and hard to produce those metal products (sword, chain mail, helmet etc.) were?
Depends on the specific type of helmet, sword, etc. It doesn't require an incredible amount of skill to hammer out something in the shape of a sword and sharpen it. However, there were techniques to provide certain qualities to the sword that some smiths wouldn't know, and may not have been known at the time. Chain mail is very very simple to make. You can make it yourself with some wire. There are lots of videos on YouTube that show how various weapons and armor are made.
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,296
Australia
#5
For starters you might find this interesting ;

Wilgie Mia - Wikipedia

Wilgie Mia, the oldest continuous mining operation in the world

Hello everyone, I'm new in this forum. I'm so happy I have finally found a platform to talk history with people!

I've also posted this thread to New Users. I don't know the rules of the forum yet, if it's forbidden to post on two place at the same time I can delete one.

In this thread I want to ask some questions about mining and providing and crafting of metals & stones in general in ancient ages. I'm not sure if "ancient ages" is an unclear term, I'm simply trying to refer to Roman antiquity and also middle ages.

My questions are;
1- How important was it to hold a mining source (copper, iron, gold etc.) for an authority in those ages?

Very . A cause of ....... ?

Late Bronze Age collapse - Wikipedia




2- Who was organising the mining operation and how?

depends where and when .

Did you know the ancient lost civilisation of Central Asia mined lapis lazuli and it ended up all the way over in ancient Egypt ?

Central Asia's Lost Civilization | DiscoverMagazine.com

Lapis lazuli - Wikipedia

they where also excellent metal workers ;


1562205161638.png

I will leave rest to others

3- Were there professionals for mining?
4- Were all miners slaves?
5- How was the logistics for this operation arrenged?
6- How did the smiths provide metals for themselves? Were they buying it themselves or being provided by the local authority in exchange of working for them?
7- Were the smiths running their private business or working for the local government?
8- How expensive and hard to produce those metal products (sword, chain mail, helmet etc.) were?

If anyone have any info about any of the questions above, I would be grateful for your help.

Thank you.
 
Nov 2010
7,648
Cornwall
#7
We were down that way in March and went up to the Rio Tinto mining area/museum. Whilst most of it is obviously about the colossal British mines of the 19th century, they do all the ages and have a sort of recreation of a Roman mine of the location made of sort of resin, you go down through and there's a waterwheel at the bottom. It sound stacky but it's actually OK

Also the area in South Murcia, particularly from Cartagena to Cabo de Palos, was another massive Carthaginian/Roman mining resource.
 
Jul 2019
6
Turkey
#8
Thank you everyone! I will check each of these sharings.

RidiculousName, thank you specially for your long reply. I will delete the other post since this one is more active. I know "ancient ages" is very broad and refers to a very long time. I think I am trying to imply the time period which iron age is well established & wide spread and the times after that, all the way to middle age. I know mining procedures must be changed a lot throughout this long time period I described, but I believe a lot of fundamental things stayed the same. By "authority" I was referring to the political force that held the mining ore, or it could also be a guild maybe (I don't know if guilds were able to do it.). When asking the importance of it, I'm kind of trying to understand, for example, if it was possible for a local force to survive without it's own mine ore to forge tools from.

I think the most exciting part is the organisation process because it looks like mining needs big scale organisation and planning with thousands of laborers and people managing them. Smiths topic is another completely amazing subject to learn about for me. I'm very interesting in all kinds of production processes before the industrial revolution, for example construction, as well as forging metals.

So if the smiths were also running their private business, were there individual civilians ordering arms & armor for their personal use?

And the chain mail is very easy to make huh? That really surprised me a lot :D. It looks so complex.

Thanks again people. I'm still open to further information.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,446
Europix
#9
We were down that way in March and went up to the Rio Tinto mining area/museum. Whilst most of it is obviously about the colossal British mines of the 19th century, they do all the ages and have a sort of recreation of a Roman mine of the location made of sort of resin, you go down through and there's a waterwheel at the bottom. It sound stacky but it's actually OK

Also the area in South Murcia, particularly from Cartagena to Cabo de Palos, was another massive Carthaginian/Roman mining resource.
Cool!

I hadn't had the chance to go there. But it seems I will be in a couple of weeks in the Western Carpathian region. I intend to visit Salina Turda - Wikipedia.
 
Jan 2015
2,933
MD, USA
#10
Just a couple clarifications:

Virtually *all* mining and manufacturing in the ancient and medieval era (in Europe, I mean) were most likely private businesses, not state-run. Mining was happening long before writing developed, though, so we simply have no idea how things may have been organized in pre-literate areas. Many of these businesses contracted with governments, yes, but things like state-run factories for armor and weapons, and state issue of armaments to soldiers, only became established in the Roman empire in the 3rd century AD. Most cultures depended on their citizens arming themselves for their military strength.

Sword-smithing is the high end of metalworking, along with armor-making. They would be made by specialists, not village blacksmiths. Likewise, though the fundamentals of making mail may seem straightforward to us, since we can just grab a roll of wire and start winding, it was not nearly as "easy" back then. High-grade iron with very little slag was needed for the wire, for starters, and it had to be laboriously drawn through successive dies, with frequent annealings (softening by heating). Other rings were punched from sheet iron, which was also quite tricky to hammer out. And if you've ever tried to rivet all those rotten little rings, you'd never call mail-making "simple" again, ha! It's extremely tedious and time-consuming, and therefore it was EXPENSIVE in ancient times.

Otherwise, pretty much what other folks have said. Miners could be slaves or free men. They likely sold their ore to smelters, who sold their billets to smiths and foundrymen. In the middle ages, every step of the process was ruled by a separate guild, with strict limits on what each profession could produce. So there were several steps before iron rods arrived at a wiremaker's shop, and he sold his wire to a ring-maker, who sold his rings to the guy who actually made mail. A cutler made blades, but a different craftsman made the hilts, and another shop made scabbards. For more ancient eras, we don't always know how combined or separated these various tasks might have been.

Matthew
 

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