The Environmental Effects of Indigenous Smelting in the Southern Andes: A Look at the Source
Author(s): Mary Van Buren
Air pollution caused by pre-industrial metal production in the Andes has been reported by scholars using data collected from lake sediments and ice cores. An important source of this pollution, which consists primarily of lead dust, is Potosí, Bolivia, a mining center that produced large quantities of silver during the early colonial period and, perhaps, during prehispanic times as well. This paper examines the environmental effects of indigenous silver production by investigating the operation of huayrachinas, small furnaces that were used to smelt argentiferous ores in Potosí and the surrounding area. Two aspects of production are assessed using data collected during the observation of an individual who continued to use this technology into the 21st century: the quantity of charcoal employed in the smelt and the amount of lead that was incorporated into the charge. These variables relate directly to the effects of mineral production on the environment, namely deforestation and lead contamination of the air, water, and soil.
Cite this Record
The Environmental Effects of Indigenous Smelting in the Southern Andes: A Look at the Source. Mary Van Buren. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430181)
This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;
Abstract Id(s): 15937