Liquid Mercury

WHS whose history involves liquid Mercury. (The use of Cinnabar/Mercury Sulphide as a colouring agent is excluded.)

Connected Sites

Site Rationale Link
Camino Real "The market and commercial distribution of mercury are represented by the silverbearing sites of Mexico: ..... the Camino Real of Tierra Adentro and the Town of San Luis Potosi (2010, criteria (ii) and (iv))." (AB for Almaden and Idrija)
Copán "a cache associated with the Margarita South Offering Platform at Copan in 1993, which produced a large quantity of liquid mercury. The stone “box” had, among other items, a large lidded ceramic bowl containing the remains of a turkey. Everything was very very heavily burned (blackened), and I believe that quantities of cinnabar were included in the deposit, transformed to liquid mercury in a reduction environment. Yellowish stains (not tested) suggest sulfur-rich products, the leftover component of cinnabar’s decomposition". See
Guanajuato "The market and commercial distribution of mercury are represented by the silverbearing sites of Mexico: the silver mines of the Historic Town of Guanajuato (1988, criteria (i), (ii), (iv) and (vi))," (AB for Almaden and Idrija)
Heritage of Mercury Both Almaden and Idrija contain furnaces which produced liquid mercury from crushed cinnabar (E.g the 1720 "Forno Bustamante")
Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor The actual tomb has not yet been excavated but is believed to contain an underground "Palace". An account of the construction of the mausoleum and its description was created by the Chinese Historian Sima Qian (c145BC - 86BC) in his "Records of the Grand Historian" (Shi ji), which contains the biography of Qin Shi Huang (Chapter 6), This states that "Mercury was used to simulate the hundred rivers, the Yangtze and Yellow River, and the great sea, and set to flow mechanically". Whether this was the case remains unproven. Various attempts have been made, however, to identify what might be inside via soil analyses, sonar etc and these claim to have discovered indications of a large chamber whose overlaying soil contains anomalously high levels of Mercury
Medina Azahara The 11th C Andalusian poet and Jewish philosopher, Solomon ibn Gabirol, described how, at Madinat, "a pool full of quicksilver ..... was placed in a palatine room surrounded on each side by eight doors with ivory and ebony arches encrusted with gold and pearls and supported by colored columns with diaphanous glass. When al-Nasir wished to impress a visitor, he made a sign to one of his slaves to shake the mercury and the flashes that irradiated on the hall façade (‘maylis’), and inside, produced such displays of light that the audience was captivated and even had the impression that the building was taking flight together with those present as the quicksilver moved."
Portobelo-San Lorenzo Portobelo: Was the transit port for Liquid Mercury from Almaden. "The materials that were traded were silver, mercury, among other precious metals and rich commodities."
Potosi Became a massive producer of Silver because of the transport of Mercury from Huancavelica - The "Patio Process" of silver amalgamation replaced the previous method of extracting silver from its ore by smelting but required mercury at the rate of 2 to 1 unit of silver production. "Colonial cinnabar mining and refining began in Huancavelica, Peru, in 1564. With a local source of mercury, the amalgamation process was adopted to refine silver in Potosí, Bolivia, in the early 1570s..According to our calculations, between 1564 and 1810, an estimated .....39,000 metric tons were released as (mercury) vapor during silver refining operations in Potosí."
Qhapaq Ñan The discovery of Mercury at Huancavelica in 1570 allowed the creation of a considerably shortened supply chain for getting that metal to Potosi compared with that from Almaden in Spain! A number of routes were developed. Some contained marine sections (e.g Chincha - Arica) whilst another re-utilised parts of the old Inca Road system via Cuzco and Oruro. "went on to be a part of a larger network which was established between Huancavelica, Cusco and Potosí, along the Mercury route" (Nom File page 926).
Quirigua Liquid Mercury and signs of burning used to extract it from cinnabar has been found buried in caches beneath some stelae. E.g "The cache from Group A (S.D. 16), the one associated with Monument 21, had been disturbed but what was left of the single vessel contained at least some shale (possibly a broken backing for a pyrite plaque or mirror), bone fragments, and streaks of cinnabar, along with its deriva¬tive, liquid mercury." Also Monument 26 - see
Teotihuacan In 2003, a tunnel was discovered beneath the Feathered Serpent pyramid in the ruins of Teotihuacan.... Undisturbed for 1,800 years, the sealed-off passage was found to contain thousands of extraordinary treasures lying exactly where they had first been placed as ritual offerings to the gods. Items unearthed included greenstone crocodile teeth, crystals shaped into eyes, and sculptures of jaguars ready to pounce. Even more remarkable was a miniature mountainous landscape, 17 metres underground, with tiny pools of liquid mercury representing lakes"
Zacatecas "The market and commercial distribution of mercury are represented by the silverbearing sites of Mexico: ......the mines of Zacatecas (1993, criteria (ii) and (iv))" (AB for Almaden and Idrija)


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A connection should:

  1. Not be "self evident"
  2. Link at least 3 different sites
  3. Not duplicate or merely subdivide the "Category" assignment already identified on this site.
  4. Add some knowledge or insight (whether significant or trivial!) about WHS for the users of this site
  5. Be explained, with reference to a source