British archaeologists uncover possibly illegal silver workshop in ancient Roman-era mansion

British archaeologists studying the Grange Farm archaeological site in Kent County have unearthed 15 kilograms of litharge, lead oxide and a by-product of silver mining, suggesting that the metal was smelted at the ancient site to extract the material, reports Daily Mail.

According to experts, the litharge was discovered on the territory of an ancient mausoleum, being the largest amount of this material ever found in an archaeological site in Britain from Roman times.

Scientists noted that metal mining was carried out at one end of the building, which was made of stone, where the chimneys were located in the center of the room, and the other half of the building was used as a residence.

Researchers argue that a large family of high social status probably lived there, since the building had two or three stories and many artifacts, including jewelry, were found inside.

It was probably a large clan that farmed, hunted, raised animals and mined metals.

Hypothesis

As the economy of the Roman world in the 3rd and 4th centuries operated on gold and silver coins, the control of these metals was closely linked to imperial taxes and strictly controlled by the authorities. Therefore, these foundries operated in large cities.

This is why archaeologists believe goldsmithing may have been practiced illicitly, according to Dr James Gerrard, lecturer in Roman archeology at Newcastle University.

In addition to the silver workshop, archaeologists discovered a lead coffin under the building containing the remains of an older woman who they believe may have led the clan. Tests carried out showed that the woman was local and suffered from osteoarthritis, however, she lived to a ripe old age and was buried with honours.

They also found 453 Roman coins, 20,000 potsherds and 8,000 animal bones. It is reported that excavations at this place have been conducted for almost 15 years, but the coffin and the silver workshop were only recently discovered.

David C. Barham