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The mining adventure: producing silver ore in the Middle Ages

Une conférence qui abordera les savoir-faire médiévaux, de l’extraction minière à la fonte des métaux, galène argentifère transformée en lingots.

In the Middle Ages, having silver metal is an asset of weight to ensure its power. Silver, which circulates mainly in monetary form, is enormously recycled. But being able to source fresh silver from mines is an undeniable asset. The exploitation of the silver deposits was therefore intense during the medieval period. The dynamics of the mining sector, to which capital flowed, favored technical innovation. Underground as in the workshops, the know-how evolved, and one can truly speak of industrial exploitation from the end of the thirteenth century.
To understand the operation of mining companies and the techniques implemented to go from the vein to the bullion, written sources are unfortunately rare. It is therefore on the ground that the survey is conducted, and archeology must adapt its methods to the world of mining and metallurgy. A major collective research project is currently focusing on medieval mines and workshops in different sectors of the Vosges mountains. In particular, it provides a glimpse of the major evolutions due to the progressive use of hydraulic energy to deplete groundwater, sort ores or operate the bellows of furnaces.
The results of these excavations associated with a rich iconography will allow us to follow step by step the different stages of the chain of production of money and their evolution. So we hope to better appreciate the genius of the medieval man.

Joseph Gauthier is a historian and archaeologist, a CNRS researcher at the Chrono-environnement laboratory. He is interested in the techniques and economics of medieval mining in France and Germany. He notably directs the excavations on the district of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, in Alsace.

The mining adventure: producing silver in the Middle Ages
Little Kursaal, Besançon
Tuesday, November 19, 8 pm
Free admission
General public

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