CRUZ Pablo Jose
congresos y reuniones científicas
Silver ores smelting process in reverberatory furnace (Santa-Isabel mine, XVIIth c., dept of Potosi, Bolivia) :experimental approach of a South-American invention
Congreso; IV Congreso Internacional de Arqueología Experimental (Burgos); 2014
Institución organizadora:
Asociación Española de Arqueología Experimental, MEH,Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Exchange on Archaeological Research and Communication
Mining and metallurgical remains are numerous in Bolivia. In this paper, we focus on a special kind of furnace, the reverberatory furnace used for smelting non-ferrous ore and for refining silver. At Santa Isabel, an archaeological site in the department of Potosi, we found two of these furnaces in a well-preserved workshop. Thanks to the dating of potsherds, we can assume this site dates from the first quarter of the XVII century. However, according to the bibliography, reverberatory furnaces for ore smelting appeared in England at the end of the XVII century, and spread throughout Europe during the XVIII. Thus, these furnaces represent a technical innovation of primary importance because this process based on separating the fuel from the ore, allowed for the true development of modern metallurgy.Experimental sessions were conducted from 2010 to 2013 on the metallurgical platform of Melle (France). Following Schnable's description, we decided to work with non-roasting ore to reproduce the operation called ?roasting and reaction?. The numerous runs made with galena gave us the know-how to properly operate this type of furnace. These experiments allowed us to present a functional hypothesis about the different elements that make up this first reveberatory furnace. At the same time, they allowed us to distinguish field furnaces used for smelting from furnaces used for refining, even when the evidence was not so clear.From a methodological point of view, this long-term experience reveals the importance of working on a used furnace in order to take stock of such kind of production.