Friday, August 24, 2012

5000 Years of Air Pollution

Like politics, all epochs are local.

Iberia, a peninsula on Europe's southwestern reaches, has long been known as a prehistoric mining center, with metal resources that continue to be harvested. As reported in The Journal of Archaeological Science (corrected proof available online July 23, 2012) researchers from Spain and the UK have examined three Iberian wetlands for clues about human metal use over the ages.

These peat bogs were not themselves mines. Nor were they necessarily ever sites of metal use by humans. Still, in the peat is a record of metal use over the ages. The data are in the trace minerals present in the soil because they precipitated with rain out of polluted skies.

The metal use timeline that the researchers have constructed for Iberia coincides with much of what's known about the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, Celtic and Roman culture, and the industrial revolution both locally and globally. Uninhabited and even never-inhabited areas, it seems, can be an ongoing resource for investigations of early mining and metallurgy practices, and, hence, early culture.

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