Friday, April 3, 2015

Ancient Mining Machines

Roman Slave Miners

Today on Far Future Horizons we present another exciting episode of the acclaimed documentary series Ancient Discoveries which explores Ancient Mining Machines and the ores and gemstones mined throughout human history.

The Romans created the hydraulic mining system that literally blew millions of tonnes of mountain away. This Hydraulic mining technique was what the Roman historian Pliny referred to as “ruina montium” ("ruin of the mountains"), and allowed base and precious metals to be extracted on a proto-industrial scale. How was this possible?

Ruins at Jacobs Ford 

In this installment of Ancients Discoveries experts also investigate how Ancient sappers dug under the walls of the mega castle Jacobs Ford in 1178 and demolished it. In this episode, the Ancient Discoveries team built a section of a castle wall and dug a tunnel under it to examine how the castle was destroyed using the ancient techniques.

However, castle defenders invented two defensive counter measures to prepare for this tactical move. They created a number of listening devices to warn them of miners digging under their walls and a poison gas to kill them. How did these counter measures work, and what was the lethal concoction used to smoke attacking sappers out of the tunnels?

The invention of gunpowder changed the way we mine. In 1689, Thomas Eplsey invented gunpowder mining in Cornwall, England. This technique eventually killed him, but it revolutionized mining.

Iceland spar, possibly the Icelandic medieval sunstone used to locate the sun in the sky when obstructed from view.

This program also investigates how the Vikings mined a crystal (Iceland spar) which they called sunstone that was used to navigate when the sun was hidden in bad weather and ships were near the poles and magnetic compasses did not work accurately. What is the secret behind the Viking sunstone?

Viking's used the Sunstone for navigation: How does the sunstone work? If you put a dot on top of the crystal and look at it from below, two dots appear, because the light is “depolarised” and fractured along different axes.You then rotate the crystal until the two points have exactly the same intensity or darkness. At that angle, the upward-facing surface of the crystal indicates the direction of the Sun.

This mythical Viking sunstone may have recently been found by underwater archaeologists in an Elizabethan shipwreck, the Alderney which sank off the British Channel Islands in 1592. 

Ancient Discoveries: Ancient Mining Machines is available on DVD from the History Channel’s online store.

Ancient Discoveries ~ Ancient Mining Machines
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