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Life,  Mines

Mines in Ancient Egypt

Mines

The mines that the ancient Egyptians exploited, were all in the desert.
There were deposits of copper, of malachite and of turquoise in Synai and east of Koptos and in Nubia and even gold mines were frequent.
Their exploitation was rather difficult, because of the lack of water, of the unbearable heat and by the Beduins’ attacks. In the most ancient epochs even armed expeditions were organized.
Only in the New Reign, thanks to Sethi I and to his son Ramesses II, the exploitations began to be organized.
Some pits were dug already along the road that starting from Kuban (Contra-Pselkhis), led to the Nubian mines in Ekayate, where there were around three-hundred stone huts for the workers, two cisterns and some tunnels that penetrated into the heart of the mountain.
About the miners’ conditions we have little information.
The historian Diodoro Siculo tells:
“The prisoners, naked and chained, worked under the relentless whip of their jailers and the foreign soldiers who guarded them were not even able to communicate because they didn’t know the prisoners’ language who, weak by illness, worked until exhaustion and death.
The miners who went into the pits, that were less dark with small torches, and blew up the rock with fire, extracted big pieces with picks.
The boys gathered pieces of quartz that were then crumbled, while the women reduced to dust the raw mineral using millstones.
The following operation, was the washing and it consisted in letting water flow over the obtained dust, that was put on inclined stones, in this way only the particles of gold, heavier, remained, in their place.
According to the epochs, the gold was melted directly on the place and prepared in gold bullions, or put in sacks, still in dust, and transported to Egypt.
It seems that the productivity of these mines was great, under Thutmosi’s III reign, the extraction of over three tons, was reported.

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