Mining was a hazardous job done mostly by slaves or criminals. The conditions in the mines were very hazardous and unpleasant. Miners were lowered with a rope into a deep shaft. The mining tunnels themselves were only tall enough to crawl into. Flooding was also a problem in the mines. The Romans invented a water wheel system that was able to take the water out of the mines. (Snedden 1998) Stone or metal picks and shovels were used to dig out the minerals. The materials were taken back to the surface in grass-woven baskets. The miners would split rocks by heating them with a fire and the dousing the rock with vinegar. The sudden change in temperature would split the rocks.
Rome imported much of their ores from other areas. Gold and silver came from Spain and Greece, tin from Britain, copper from Italy, Spain and Cyprus. (Rees 1999).
After the ore was mined, it would be processed by smiths. The
Romans learned that reheating iron between carbon would make a stronger metal
steel. Iron was also used to make rings. Bronze was used frequently for everyday
objects. Romans were able to use clay molds in which they poured the bronze
to make a large variety of small items. Larger items would be cast to be hollow
or have clay insides to limit the amount of the bronze material in the piece.
A mixture of copper and zinc were used as a substitute for real gold. Gold would
be worked into rings, earrings and chains for the wealthier Romans.
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