Later prehistoric tin mining in the Ervedosa mine (Vinhais, Portugal): evidence and context

Emmanuelle Meunier, Filipa Dias, João Fonte, Alexandre Lima, Alexandra Rodrigues, Carlo Bottaini, Rui J. C. Silva, João P. Veiga, Manuel F. C. Pereira, Elin Figueiredo

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper presents a comprehensive study of the evidence for ancient tin mining at the Ervedosa mine (Vinhais, Portugal). The geological context of the site indicates a rich cassiterite (SnO2) deposit, which was subject to mining in the twentieth century. Some ancient mining and ore processing stone tools were recovered during the twentieth century mining operations, namely one hammer, one pounder, one flat anvil and five small tools used both as pounders and crushing anvils, evidencing prehistoric mining activities. XRF and SEM–EDS chemical analyses were performed on primary and secondary cassiterite samples from the mining site, demonstrating the abundance and chemical heterogeneity of the tin (Sn) ores. The stone tools can be ascribed to Bronze Age or, at the latest, Early Iron Age (2nd millennium to the first half of 1st millennium BCE) by comparison with similar tools from other Iberian and European archaeological contexts. High-resolution photogrammetric 3D models of the tools are made available in this study. The historical descriptions of the findings and the research made on the technical archives about the mine allowed correlating the tools to mining in a primary context, focused on rich quartz veins in granitic or greisen bedrock, rather than mining in a secondary context. XRF and SEM–EDS analyses performed on the stone material and on surface adherences support their identification as specific types of hard rocks, such as granite, amphibolite and quartzite, and allowed the detection of Sn-rich adherent particles, confirming their use for Sn-material processing. The potential relation between the cassiterite resources and the local later prehistoric (Bronze Age to Early Iron Age) settlement pattern is also discussed. The results raise awareness and provide relevant data about the existence of tin mining in primary contexts during later prehistoric times in the NW Iberian Peninsula.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
Number of pages22
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Bronze Age
  • Cassiterite
  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Ore processing
  • Stone tools
  • Tin mining


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