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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Jul 15;39(14):5131-40.

Record of metal workshops in peat deposits: history and environmental impact on the Mont Lozère Massif, France.

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  • 1Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, CNRS Nancy, 15 rue Notre Dame des Pauvres, BP 20, 54 501 Vandoeuvre les Nancy, France.


This study aims to document the history of the metallurgical activities on the Mont Lozère massif in the Cévennes Mountains in Southern France. Many medieval sites of metallurgical wastes (slags) have been reported on the massif. These sites are thought to represent ancient lead workshops. The impact of past metallurgical activity on the environment was studied using geochemical and palynological techniques on a core collected in the Narses Mortes peatland near medieval smelting area. Two main periods of smelting activities during the last 2200 years were revealed bythe lead concentration and isotopic composition along the core profile: the first period corresponds to the Gallic period (approximately ca. 300 B.C. to ca. 20 A.D.) and the second one to the Medieval period (approximately ca. 1000-1300 A.D.). Forest disturbances are associated with lead anomalies for the two metallurgical activities described. The impact of the first metallurgy was moderate during the Gallic period, during which beech and birch were the tree species most affected. The second period corresponds to the observed slag present in the field. Along with agropastoral activities, the medieval smelting activities led to the definitive disappearance of all tree species on the summit zones of Mont Lozère. The abundance of ore resources and the earlier presence of wood on the massif justify the presence of workshops at this place. The relationship between mines and ores has been documented for the Medieval period. There is no archaeological proof concerning the Gallic activity. Nevertheless, 2500-2100 years ago, the borders of the Gallic Tribe territory, named the Gabales, were the same as the present-day borders of the Lozère department. Julius Caesar reported the existence of this tribe in 58 B.C. in "De Bello Gallico", and in Strabon (Book IV, 2.2) the "Gabales silver" and a "treasure of Gabales" are mentioned, but to this day, they have not been found.

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