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[Reprinted, by permission of the publishers, from “History of the Bench and Bar of California" published by the Commercial Printing House,
Los Angeles, Cal., 1901.]
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE
One of the most interesting chapters in Pliny, who wrote his Natural History shortly after the time of Christ, is that in which he describes the different methods of mining operations in vogue in his time.
“Gold is found in our part of the world," says this classical author, “not to mention the gold extracted from the earth in India by the ants, and in Scythia by the griffins. Among us it is procured in three different ways: the first of which is in the shape of dust, found in running streams, the Tagus in Spain, for instance, the Padus in Italy, the Hebrus in Thracia, the Pactolus in Asia, and the Ganges in India. Indeed, there is no gold found in a more perfect state than this, thoroughly polished as it is by the continual attrition of the current.
“A second mode of obtaining gold is by sinking shafts or seeking it among the debris of the mountains, both of which methods it will be well to describe.. The persons in search of gold in the first place remove the 'segutilum,' such being the name of the earth which gives indication of the presence of gold. This done, a bed is made, the sand of which is washed, and according to the residue found after washing, a conjecture is formed as to the richness of the vein. Sometimes, indeed, gold is found at once in the surface earth, a success, however, but rarely experienced. Recently, for instance in the reign of Nero, a vein was discovered in Dal
matia, which yielded daily as much as fifty pound weight of gold. The gold that is thus found in the surface crust is known as 'talutium,' in cases where there is auriferous earth beneath. The mountains of Spain, in other respects arid and sterile, and productive of nothing whatever, are thus constrained by man to be fertile, in supplying him with this precious commodity.
“The gold that is extracted from shafts is known by some persons as 'canalicium,' and by others 'canaliense.' It is found adhering to the gritty crust of marble, and altogether different from the form in which it sparkles in the sapphirus of the East, and in the stone of Thebais and other gems, it is seen interlaced with the molecules of the marble. The channels of these veins are found running in various directions along the sides of the shafts, and hence the name of the gold they yield, 'canalicium.' In these shafts, too, the superincumbent earth is kept from falling in by means of wooden pillars. The substance that is extracted is first broken up and then washed, after which it is subjected to the action of fire and ground to a fine powder. This powder is known as ‘apitascudes, while the silver which becomes disengaged in the furnace has the name of ‘sudor' given to it. The impurities that escape by the chimney, as in the case of all other metals, are known by the name of ‘scoria.' In the case of gold, this scoria is broken up a second time and melted over again. The crucibles used for this purpose are made of 'tasconium,' a white earth similar to potter's clay in appearance, there being no other substance capable of withstanding the strong current of air, the action of the fire, and the intense heat of the melted metal.
“The third method of obtaining gold surpasses the labors of the giants even. By the aid of galleries driven to a long distance, mountains are excavated by the light of torches, the duration of which forms the set times for work, the workmen never seeing the light of day for many months together. These mines are known as 'arrugiae,' and not unfrequently the clefts are formed on a sudden, the earth sinks in, and the workmen are crushed beneath; so that it would