THE PREHISTORIC TIN TRADE
CORNISH tin was the one famous product of ancient Britain, and for the civilized Mediterranean peoples the tin trade was invested with a certain romantic glamour, for it reached out to the lands on the borders of the western ocean which were not yet a real part of the known world. Since the bronze of early Europe contained about a tenth part of tin and since tin deposits were rare, the trade routes leading to them acquired a very considerable importance.
The first thing to consider is how these early people worked the tin ore, and, although in the nature of thing; archaeology is here of little assistance, some idea may be obtained by considering the very simple methods used in Cornwall in mediaeval and more recent times. Three ways of reaching the deposits of tin ore have been employed bv the tinners of Cornwall and Devon, ' streaming,' cliff-working, and shaft-mining. Whether the prehistoric men like their mediaeval successors burrowed into the faces of the cliffs in pursuit of tin lodes there is no way of knowing for the erosion of the cliffs would long since have erased all traces of their activity. Shaft mining too need not be considered, for it was practically unknown to the tinners until the middle of the isth Century. Before that time the ore had been obtained almost exclusively by streaming the old accustomed method of the Cornish tinners, which consisted in making surface excavations into what were called tin streams.
A tin stream in accordance with the older usage of the term was not a stream of water but a bed of the detrita ore in the form of heavy black stones and sand. '
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