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Title: Ysbryd y Mwynwyr - Spirit of the Miners
Chimney, TaliesinWheelhouse, Bryn yr ArianYstrad Einion
 

Early Mining


'Primitive mines' were worked in the Early Bronze Age period between 2100 and about 1600 BC (approx 3600-4100 years ago), although most of the activity dates to around 1850-1650 BC.
Most of the early mining sites are shallow opencast trenches or small pits excavated into the surface outcrops of the mineral veins.

The workers appear to have been following lead veins rich in associated copper minerals and seem to have been extracting copper and perhaps lead sulphides. Many of these sites are little more than trials, although some, such as Twll y mwyn (Darren) and Copa Hill (Cwmystwyth) were proper opencast mines with evidence for tools, ore processing and attempts at drainage of the workings.

Copa Hill, Cwmystwyth

• Ceredigion has a larger density of 'primitive mines' than almost anywhere else in the British Isles.
• Four of these 'primitive mine' sites: Lancynfelin Mine - Talybont, Nantyrarian - Ponterwyd, Tyn y fron - Rheidol Valley and Copa Hill - Cwmystwyth have been partially excavated by the Early Mines Research Group.


Hammer stone


• 'Primitive mines' are characterised by the presence of stone cobble mining tools - hammer stones - and evidence for the use of fire-setting.
• The hammer stone (left), found near Talybont, is typical of those found in great quantities at some 'primitive mine' sites in Ceredigion.
• The notch, seen clearly on the left hand side, was chipped into the stone by a mine worker some 4000 years ago to help locate the animal hide and withy handle.
• A 10 pence coin has been placed on the stone to give an idea of scale.


Bronze Age launder


• The mine on Copa Hill, Cwmystwyth has been archaeologically excavated over a period of 16 years. It has produced evidence for antler and stone tools and withy handles, plus fragments of withy rope and baskets, a series of wooden drainage launders (gutters for carrying water) plus evidence for the crushing of copper ore (chalcopyrite) on anvil stones.
• The mine is over 10 metres deep and more than 40 metres long.... a hole from which over 5000 tons of rock have been removed. This prehistoric mine may have produced upwards of 1-2 tons of copper metal, and perhaps some lead.





• No evidence for copper or lead smelting of this period has been found anywhere within the vicinity of the mines. It is possible that the hand-picked, crushed and cleaned ore was traded further afield by those who worked the mines; essentially pastoralists who moved inland from the coast during the summer months.
• No Late Bronze Age or Iron Age copper/lead mines have yet been identified within the area, though various contenders for this are currently being examined.
• Evidence for lead mining and smelting during the Roman Period has now been identified at Cwmystwyth, and most recently close to Talybont at Erglodd, along the SE margin of Borth Bog. The lead from these sites were smelted within wind-blown hearths or 'bole furnaces'.
• Lead was mined during the Early Medieval period at Cwmystwyth. Traces of water-courses, hush-channels and lead smelting hearths have been excavated here. Some of this work may have been carried out by the Cistercian monks or lay-brothers from the Abbey at Strata Florida.


With thanks to Simon Timberlake, Early Mines Research Group