The impressive brick ventilation shaft surprisingly towering out of the maquis.
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Argentella is on the road south to Porto on the craggy coast at the Bay of Crovani. The wild country has been the scene of many attempts at wresting silver from the Argentiferous Galena - silver bearing lead to you and me.
The handsome ruined buildings of this industrial archaeology site by the sea.
Argentella is named for its mineral resource and its handsome buildings seem fitting for the material that they were built to produce. The last pioneering mining company that exploited the site was a called La Société des Mines de Prunelli that took over in 1906. It soon gave up like the struggle, like the many mining businesses that had preceded them, including a couple of British operators.
The mining of silver from lead is an age old process involving first is roasting - simply heating in air and the second is the reduction of the resulting oxide, known as smelting. Silver and lead are generally found together both in nature and in history. Knowledge of them appears to originate in Asia, where they are found from about BC 3000, but in Europe they are found only from about BC 300.
This is the raw material, though it may be hard to imagine that this produces the bright metal so admired. The usual ore is galena (PbS) which is normally found with Ag2S (argentite) impurities
Silver has been known by humans since prehistoric times, and its discovery is estimated to have happened shortly after that of copper and gold. One of the earliest reference to the element appears in the book of Genesis (13, 2). The Egyptians considered gold to be a perfect metal, and gave it the symbol of a circle. Since silver was the closest to gold in perfection, it was depicted as a semi-circle.
Later this semi-circle led to a growing moon symbol, presumably due to the likeness between the shining metal and the moon glow. The Romans called silver argentum, and we keep this alive by retaining Ag as the chemical symbol for this element. Silver was one of the seven alchemical metals (including lead) and is also associated with the moon in astrology.
There are many places that have taken their name from the Latin apart from Argentella, one of which is Argentiera in neighbouring Sardinia.
The haunting site of the abandoned silver mines at Argentella are surprising, given their location in the wild and craggy coastline of Calinzana. Perhaps the ghosts of the long departed miners would take pleasure in seeing the place re-opened as a silver mining museum.
Bianconi Scuperta (www.bianconi-scuperta.com) - Olivier Bianconi is a young local man who has always been fascinated by his local culture and heritage. He has now established a set of guided tours in the Balagne (including one covering Argentella and the Fango river - he knows a lot about Prince Pierre, on of his research subjects) to visit sites and share their history and significance.
If you want any more pointers to enjoying a visit to Calinzana, you could do worse than asking us. If you'd like to visit more of Corsica, then go to Corsica Isula - a website with a vast coverage of all aspects of Corsica.
calinzana.corsica-isula.com © 2005 William Keyser