Lasers Locate Ancient Roman Gold Mine

Romans loved gold as much as anyone, but how they got it has long been somewhat of a mystery. That is, until now. Thanks to a team of Spanish archeologists, the mystery has been solved. And what they discovered was no rudimentary mining operation. Even by Roman standards. In fact, the study revealed a level of engineering that no one quite expected.

The University of Salamanca’s Javier Fernández-Lozano led the study that revealed this ancient gold mine. Lozano and his team of researchers used a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system fixed to an aircraft to discover a massive, ancient gold mine underneath what’s now the city of Leon in northwestern Spain. But it wasn’t the gold mine itself that was so amazing.

 Lozano’s team discovered that this mine was run by complex hydraulic systems using diverted rivers for power. “The volume of earth exploited is much greater than previously thought and the works performed are impressive, having achieved actual river captures, which makes this valley extremely important in the context of Roman mining,” Lozano explained of the study, which he co-authored and published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. .

While the study does help answer a few questions about Roman mining, many remain. How long did the gold mine operate? And why did the mine cease operations with gold still present? Hoping to answer some of these questions, Lozano and his team plan on using LiDAR to further study the area.

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