Locations of Cinnabar-Mercury Occurrences in Peru: Implications for Pre-Contact Gold Production

Author: William E. Brooks

The Huancavelica cinnabar-mercury occurrence is the most well-known, but not the only, cinnabar-mercury occurrence in Peru. Therefore, a compilation of the approximately 20 other cinnabar-mercury occurrences is important in assessing the regional availability of this important mineral and its industrial uses in pre-contact Peru. These include: 1) cinnabar use as an ancient red pigment and, 2) more importantly, retorting cinnabar was an important source of mercury that was used for pre-contact alluvial gold amalgamation and, later Colonial silver amalgamation. Geochemical sampling of the lesser-known Chonta occurrence also indicates Ag, Pb-Zn, or Au exploration targets. Retorting cinnabar has been widely documented and dates to 8000 years ago in ancient Turkey; during Roman time; in ancient Mexico; medieval Europe; the western US; and Indonesia. Using only cinnabar, clay for the ceramic retorts, and charcoal, coal, or other fuels, this artisanal process provided the mercury that was essential to the small-scale gold mining technology that produced tons of gold from alluvial sources before the arrival of the Spanish explorers in ancient South America. In present-day Peru, mercury is used to produce tons of gold from small-scale mines, and by analogy, the tons of gold produced in pre-contact Peru are hard evidence that is consistent with small-scale gold mining and mercury amalgamation in the past.


Journal: Archaeological Discovery
DOI: 10.4236/ad.2020.83014(PDF)
Paper Id: 101178


See also: Comments to Paper

About scirp

(SCIRP: http://www.scirp.org) is an academic publisher of open access journals. It also publishes academic books and conference proceedings. SCIRP currently has more than 200 open access journals in the areas of science, technology and medicine. Readers can download papers for free and enjoy reuse rights based on a Creative Commons license. Authors hold copyright with no restrictions. SCIRP calculates different metrics on article and journal level. Citations of published papers are shown based on Google Scholar and CrossRef. Most of our journals have been indexed by several world class databases. All papers are archived by PORTICO to guarantee their availability for centuries to come.
This entry was posted in AD. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *