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Evidence for unseen silver

Scientists studied a sediment core from Laguna Lobato in Bolivia to better understand the history of silver mining in the surrounding mountains. Image courtesy of Mark Abbott.
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

After studying layers of sediment from the bottom of a lake in Bolivia, the authors of a new study think that people living in the Andes Mountains mined silver as early as 1,000 years ago. The report may help fill gaps in the archaeological record caused, in part, by the recycling and stealing of silver artifacts by later cultures. The researchers think that large-scale silver mining in this region began approximately 400 years before the documented Incan silver industry.

Mark Abbott from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA and Alexander Wolfe from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada analyzed a sediment core from Laguna Lobato, a lake near the largest silver deposit in the Bolivian tin belt. From this core, they think they can identify the time that soot and dust produced during the silver separating process started falling into the lake. This research appears in the 26 September issue of the journal, Science published by AAAS, the science society.


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Science is published by AAAS, the science society.