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13 November 2014

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You are in: Cornwall > Places > Places Features > Medieval Mining

Researching the mortar

Medieval Mining

A granite slab at Poldark Mine has been granted national monument status. Historians say that they believe it dates from around 2000 BC to 43 AD proving early mining activity in Cornwall. Listen to our report from Poldark.

Poldark is famous throughout the world for its mining. But a discovery at the turn of this century proves that mining happened in Cornwall centuries before the county became recognised as an important mining site.

Now the granite slab discovery has been granted national monument status. The outcrop has circular shaped hollows worn into its upper face, proving tin was crushed by hand in Cornwall long before the invention of machinery in medieval times. 

Archaeologists say that the stone has been hidden by soil until 2001 and is the only known evidence of this early practice, of tin crushing, here in the south west. 

Impression

How it may have looked in the past

Richard Williams is the Managing Director of Poldark Mine:

"It's quite unique. Here they would have crushed tin ore. In pre-history the ore was crushed to sea sand and mixed with charcoal and heated it up.

"It was discovered by accident. We started to rub the ground and discovered a hollow, we cleaned it off. There are 17 depressions in the mortar.

"It's an impressive and important discovery and we're delighted that is has now been officially listed.

"What makes it so special is that unlike detached mortar 'stones', which do exist in Devon and Cornwall, the outcrop here is not something that was moved in from elsewhere. It proves - without doubt - that thousands of years ago people were crushing tin by hand right here in this exact spot. It’s absolutely fascinating."

Granite slab

Granite slab at Poldark Mine

Deborah Boden, Co-ordinator of Cornish Mining World Heritage Site says:

"The mortar outcrop at Poldark is a unique and valuable asset which emphasises the longevity of mining activity in Cornwall. Discoveries like this are incredibly rare and so we are extremely fortunate that it will now be protected for generations to come." 

Poldark Mine, near Helston is open to the public. It is home to the only Cornish Beam Pumping Engine still pumping water from a mine.

last updated: 15/09/2009 at 12:45
created: 15/09/2009

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