Wednesday, January 20, 2016

La Isabela and the Silver Ore

La Isabela

La Isabela Discovered by Columbus

La Isabela had been discovered by Columbus when he had returned to Spain with stories of the fortune that they were going to locate there if they had little more time, money and people.La Isabela is the name of the first European town which was established in the Americas and had been established during Columbus’s second expedition to the American continents where the town was named for Queen Isabela of Spain.Her first expedition had lasted from 1492-1493.

Columbus had returned to Spain after his expedition of discovering America and had taken gold from the inhabitants of Hispaniola. The gold had convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela to fund a second and a large expedition. In early 1494, Columbus together with 1,500 crew, had returned to Hispaniola and had established the colony. The motive of the expedition was mainly to find and exploit deposits of precious metals. Archaeological indication at La Isabela of silver extractions seemed to show that the expedition had found and tested deposits of silver bearing lead ore in the Caribbean.

Site Excavated in Late 1980 & Early 1990

The site at Isabela had been excavated widely in late 1980s and early 1990s. The town’s buildingscomprised of a citadel built for Columbus to live in, together with a fortified storehouse or alhondiga, to store their material goods, some stone building for different purposes accompanied with a European style plaza. Silver-ore processing station was towards the north of the storehouse and there were 58 triangular graphite-tempered assaying crucibles together with 1 kg of liquid mercury which had been brought from powdered ore by amalgamation, for the extraction of gold.

The mercury is said to have been excavated from the ruins of the alhondiga which was a fortified structured raised for storage as well as protection of royal property. According to a new research, the silver bearing ore which had been discovered by Columbus’s second expedition had not been mined in the Americas.

As per Alyson Thibodeau who had analysed the ore, states that the ore which the researchers had excavated from the settlement, La Isabela had come from Spain.David J. Killick, had informed that `what had appeared to be the earliest evidence of European finds of precious metals in the New World turned out not to be that at all and was a different story.

Columbus Failed Settlement- Not found in Historical Documents

The researchers presumed that the explorers had brought the Spanish ore to La Isabela to utilise it for comparison when examining the new ores they had expected to find. The researchers’ state that towards 1497, the remaining settlers of La Isabela on finding no gold or silver, became desperate to recover something of the value from the futile settlement and were reduced in extracting silver from the galena that they had brought from Spain.

According to a geosciences graduate student at The University of Arizona in Tucson, Thibodeau, `this part of the story of Columbus’s failed settlement is one which is not found in the historical documents and it would never have been figured out without using the techniques of physical sciences to the archaeological artifacts.

A UA associate professor of anthropology, Tguvideay Killick together with his colleagues would be publishing the article `The Strange Case of the Earliest Silver Extraction by European Colonist in the New World’ in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the weeks of February 19.