Channel Island Hopping In Search of Illusive Ictis

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Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall (Public Domain)

Channel Island Hopping In Search of Illusive Ictis

Saint Brendan’s Isle, Hy-Brasil and the Isle of Avalon are three of the many fabled islands that were once believed to have existed off the coastline of Britain. These were traditionally difficult islands to find, not only because they were all shrouded in mist, but more so because they represent imaginary archetypes of mythology. There was, however, one island that was recorded by ancient Greek navigators that definitely existed, yet its identity has evaded detection for over 2,000 years - the lost island of Ictis, one of the ancient world’s richest sources of tin.

Bronze age artifacts which tin was vital for production. ( Public Domain )

Bronze age artifacts which tin was vital for production. ( Public Domain )

Ancient Tin Mining In Britain

Limited archaeological remains of tin mining coupled with the destruction of ancient mines by modern mining operations means archaeologists still debate the origins of tin mining in the earliest Bronze Age cultures of the Near East. However, a 2021-DNA study by the University of York, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Vienna revealed that the Bronze Age in Britain took off with a major population migration from continental Europe, bringing the skills of extracting and producing copper and gold – ancient metallurgy arrived in the British Isles.  Around 2100 BC, tribes in Britain and Ireland became the first in Europe to make a complete change from producing copper tools and weapons to products made from the more durable bronze, consisting of 90 percent copper and about 10 percent tin. While in ancient times tin was extracted from rich alluvial deposits across Europe and Central Asia, nowhere held as much tin as St. Austell, Bodmin and West Cornwall in southern England.

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