Economic Sectors: Mining and Metalurgy

Figure 1.--Thhis German class in the early 1950s is visiting the Grube Samson or Sampson Pit. It is a famous silver mine in the Harz Mountains which was opened in 1521. An interesting aspect is the relatively small quantities of silver produced in the mine each year. In the same year the mikne was opened, Cortez completed the conquest of the Aztec Empire and gold and silver bullion began entering Europe in huge quantities.

Another early economic sector was mining. The production of metals preceeded agricultural about 50 millenia. Metals were extremely valuable to early man and a prime factor in the development of trade. The early ages of mankind are defined by metals (copper, broze, and iron). The differences were defined by technological capabilities required to use the different metals--essentially the ability to generate high tempeatures. There was no gold age, but gold must have been the first metal acquired by man. While gold is rare, it is also incorruptible and thus can be found in nature. As it is bright, man probably first found it streams while seeking water or seafood. And because it was malleable and had a low melting point, early man with limited technical capasbilities was able to develop basic metallurgical skills. And these same skills could be used to work on other metals such as more abundant than copper and copper alloys like bronze. The capability to manufacture iron was particulsrly important because it was harder Metals have played important roles in history. . , but became much more sophisticated when praticed by the more advanced and better organized agricultural socities. And the metal tools developed played major roles in advancing civilization. A major reason for the development of early Phoenecian and Greek colonies in the Mediterranean was the pursuit of metals. Metals were a primary factor in the Peloponnesian War. Iron/steel tools and arms have played major roles in economics and history. Gold and siolver did not drive the European drive for sea routes to Asia, but for a long time was one of the few commofities that could be offered the Chinese. In the mercantile economies that developed after the Middkle ages, acquiering gold ans silver became the central economic objedctive of the new nation states. Gold was a major factor driving the European colonization of the Americas. And the gold and silver found there had a major impact on the European economy. And with the Industrial Revolution, not only did the basic metals become even more important, but new metals such as aluminum, cobalt, chromium, magnesium, tungsten, titanium, uranium, and other metals become important.


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Created: 12:46 AM 7/2/2010
Last updated: 12:46 AM 7/2/2010