Ancient Mining Facilities
During some previous mine exploration facilities of our directorate, various ancient mining artifacts have been found and these finding constitute the foundations of our Turkish Mining History section. The research on the subject started in 1976 by the formerly MTA Institute.
In the Turkish Mining History section, many findings and a reconstruction of a 2000 BC’s copper mine are on display.
Anatolia is very rich in mine resources, and due to this characteristic feature it has always attracted the interests of humans. Approximately 10.000 years ago, around Diyarbakır (Çayönü Hill) and Aksaray (Aşıklı Tumulus), Anatolian people gathered native copper and used it to craft simple objects such as beads, fishhooks and needles. At first, they tried to shape the copper, forged it while it is cold; but they realized that heating the metal before forging, prevents it from cracking. This was a turning point in the history of mining and with this discovery the foundations of modern mining were laid. The usage of metals in the production of weapons and tools is the most significant achievement in the early human history.
Various kinds of oil lamps have replaced firebrands that were used for illumination in the early years of mining.
Ancient Tools of Miners
Most of the tools of ancient miners like shovels, pickaxes and carrying troughs were made of wood.
Cupellation and Cementation
Cupellation is a refining process in metallurgy, where ores or alloyed metals are treated under very high temperatures and have controlled operations to separate noble metals, like gold and silver, from base metals like lead, copper, zinc, arsenic etc. which are present in the ore. The process is based on the principle that precious metals do not oxidise or react chemically, unlike the base metals; so when they are heated at high temperatures, the precious metals remain apart and the others react and form slags or other compounds. Cupellation was a preliminary treatment in Sardes gold refinery.
Cementation was conducted after cupellation process. In preparation for the parting process, larger pieces of electrum were hammered into thin sheets to create broad surfaces for attacking by a parting agent, which was probably salt (possibly also sulfides, including alum). The sheets and small grains of alluvial gold were then sandwiched between layers of salt, perhaps were combined with “carriers” of clay or brick dust, inside coarse pottery containers. The containers resembled—and may have included—ordinary Lydian cooking pots. Filled containers were placed in ovens and heated at relatively low temperatures of about 800° C for many hours, perhaps even days. During the heating, salt vapors attacked the electrum and converted its silver to silver chloride, which was absorbed by nearby clay materials, including “carrier” clay or brick dus. After treatment, the gold was basically pure.
Mining in the Bronze Age
In the primitive conditions of Bronze Age, smaller mines, got its start as a system of surface workings. Miners simply dug out the green and blue veins of copper ore that they saw on the surface. But soon after, the miners decided to follow the veins of copper malachite both horizontally and diagonally, they created the winding and narrow tunnels that we see today.
Thousands of stone hammers, grinding stones, mortars and many other stone tools were used in an average bronze age mining site. Some of them were used for digging and the others for metallurgical activities. So always a stone quarry accompanies to copper mines in Bronze age.
The ore was prepared for smelting by pounding with stones to produce a powder of copper carbonate (malachite and azurite). The ore was mixed with charcoal and placed into bowl-shaped furnaces, usually with a clay layer lining. Air was blown into the furnace and goat-skin bellows may have been used.