Chapter

Industrial Use of Mercury in the Ancient World

William E. Brooks

in Mercury in the Environment

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780520271630
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520951396 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520271630.003.0002
Industrial Use of Mercury in the Ancient World

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Mercury and cinnabar were known and used in ancient Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, Mexico, and South America. Archaeologists have shown that cinnabar was mined and mercury was produced more than eight thousand years ago in Turkey. Blood-red cinnabar provided a multiuse pigment in many parts of the ancient world, and mercury retorted from the cinnabar was used for gilding or placer gold amalgamation. Mercury was the earliest known treatment for syphilis, and Agricola (1556) details mercury use, retorting techniques, and cautions against breathing the fumes released during mercury retorting. In the 1600s mercury from Peru was essential to Spanish colonial silver processing in the New World and soon replaced mercury brought across the Atlantic from the centuries-old Almaden Mine in Spain.

Keywords: mercury; cinnabar; ancient; retorting; amalgamation

Chapter.  5127 words. 

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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