NATO ASI Series Volume 280, 1995, pp 219-240

Celtic Gold Mines in West Central Gaul

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Abstract

Archaeological researches recently carried out on ancient gold mines in the Limousin (west central Gaul) have revealed an intense extractive industry. The Lemovici people developed opencast mining following outcropping veins (hydrothermal veins with native gold and gold associated with sulphides) in their territory throughout the second (La Tène) Iron Age. Mining activity started in the 4th century B.C. At that time, extraction was by small open-pits followed by underhand stoping. Abundant traces of nearby dwellings have been found in the backfill, as well as stone-tools used in working the ore. In contrast, in late La Tene (from 2nd to early 1st century B.C.), the mines were in the form of large open casts of a length of about 250 m, a width of 80 m, and a depth of 30 to 40 m. From these opencasts exploratory galleries and crosscuts were driven along cross-cutting veins. Crosscuts were also driven for drainage. From a depth of about 20 m, mining went on underground in stopes driven up to 10 m depth and fully propped (with the complete timbering still existing in its original position).

At the site of these long excavations, ore treatment areas have been located. They include roasting hearths, ore, fragments of millstones, crushing-tables, crushers and touchstones. At the middle La Tène site of Cros Gallet-Nord, ore washing areas and crucibles have been also found. Near these areas were discovered the foundations of earthern and timber structures of middle and late La Tène date.