Articles

  

 

Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana

Volumen 71, núm. 2, 2019, p. 295 ‒ 319

http://dx.doi.org/10.18268/ BSGM2019v71n2a5

 

 

 

The Neolithic variscite mines of Gavà, Catalonia: criteria for mineral exploration and exploitation in the Prehistory

Yael Díaz-Acha1,*, Joan Carles Melgarejo2, Josep Bosch3, Aleu Andreazini2, Míriam Pastor2, Núria Pujol-Solà2, Marc Campeny1, Lisard Torró4Cristina Villanova-de-Benavent5, Montgarri Castillo-Oliver6, Saleh Lehbib7, Antoni Camprubí8, Joaquín A. Proenza2

 

1Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona. Parc de la Ciutadella s/n, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.

2Departament de Mineralogia, Petrologia i Geologia Aplicada, Facultat de Ciències de la Terra, Universitat de Barcelona. Martí i Franquès s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.

3Museu de Gavà. Plaça de Dolors Clua, 13, 08850 Gavà, Barcelona, Spain.

4Departament de Mineralogia, Petrologia i Geologia Aplicada, Facultat de Ciències de la Terra, Universitat de Barcelona. Martí i Franquès s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain. 

Departament de Geologia, Facultat de Ciències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Edifici Cs, 08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), Spain.

Departamento de Ingeniería de Minas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú. Avenida Universitaria 1801, San Miguel, Lima 32, Peru.

5School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton. Mithras House, Lewes Rd., Brighton BN2 4AT, United Kingdom.

6Departament de Mineralogia, Petrologia i Geologia Aplicada, Facultat de Ciències de la Terra, Universitat de Barcelona. Martí i Franquès s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.

ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems and GEMOC, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University.NSW 2019, Australia.

7Departament de Mineralogia, Petrologia i Geologia Aplicada, Facultat de Ciències de la Terra, Universitat de Barcelona. Martí i Franquès s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.

Ministery of Water and the Environment, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

8Instituto de Geología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Ciudad Universitaria, 04510 Coyoacán, CDMX, Mexico.

* This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Abstract

The Gavà Neolithic Mining Complex (GNMC) located in Catalonia was devoted to the exploitation of green variscite used in the crafting of ornaments. Archaeological works in more than 100 mines indicated that this mining activity was carried out ~5800 years before present. GNMC constitutes (1) one of the earliest known examples of underground mining in Europe, (2) the earliest example of large-scale mining for ornamental use, and (C) the earliest of the application of complex geological and mining concepts. In the GNMC variscite is found as two distinct styles: (1) replacement of thin fluorapatite beds, which are interbedded with pyritic organic-rich black shales of Silurian age; and (2) veinlets crosscutting these materials. This set of geological materials is unconformably covered locally by Quaternary calcretes. Variscite formed as a result of Quaternary supergene processes, which oxidized the pyrite and produced acidic, oxidized solutions. The resulting fluids mobilized phosphate from apatite and leached Al and organic matter out of Silurian shales, thus leading to the precipitation of the Al-rich phosphates as vein infillings and strata-bound replacements after apatite. The formation of variscite is restricted to the extent of the oxidizing front, and variscite of both mineralization styles changes in color from yellowish green near the surface to deep green in depth. The study area contains two mining fields: Can Tintorer and Can Badosa–Les Ferreres range. The presence of abundant subvertical variscite veins in Can Tintorer allowed a complex development of galleries at different exploitation levels communicated by shafts and ramps, achieving 15 meters depth. The exploitation by Neolithic miners was by overhand and underhand stoping; they also used pillars and refilling of older exploitations to avoid the mine collapsing. These mines were opened in many cases by shafts that were dug directly through hard Quaternary calcretes, favoring the galleries’ stability and revealing that miners understood that mineralization continues underneath the calcrete cover. Geological mapping reveals that exploitations in the Can Badosa–Les Ferreres area are simple, showing a single entrance to simple galleries or ramps attaining less than 5 m in depth and directly excavated on phosphate outcrops. Contrastingly, the mines in the Can Tintorer area have several entrances that consist of vertical shafts through a Quaternary cover, presenting an intricate geometry with many large and communicated galleries at different depths with a system of cameras and pillars. Although the development of both mining areas was essentially contemporaneous, the Can Badosa–Les Ferreres area can only be considered an exploration area. In addition, mining was carried out on minerals adjacent to variscite, not directly on variscite veins themselves, thus indicating that the miners were effectively using a wealth of geological knowledge that was previously acquired in the complex operations in the Can Tintorer mines.

Keywords: variscite, veinlets, replacement, supergene, Quaternary, stoping, Neolithic, mine, protohistoric mining.