People inhabited the earth for hundreds of thousands of
years before they began to use metals. In ancient civiliza-
tions, people only used metals that were available to them
without mining or chemical treatment, such as pieces of
native gold, silver, and copper, and rare pieces of meteoric
iron (which can be easily identiﬁed by the nickel content).
However, they were too small in quantity to be of any cul-
tural consequence (Habashi, 2001).
Because of its geographical location, Anatolia has been
the birthplace of many great civilizations. It has also been a
prominent centre of commerce because of its land connec-
tions to three continents and the sea surrounding it on
Anatolians have been making ceramics for about 8,000
years (Unal, 2003). The country is one of the world’s better
locations to look for mineral deposits, lying at the junction
of the African, Eurasian, and Arabian plates. This has
resulted in a geologically active environment, making it
possible for magma and hot ﬂuids to rise from the mantle
forming mineral deposits, which in Anatolia, almost com-
pletely cover the spectrum of ages (Paleozoic to Tertiary)
and types (porphyries, skarns, veins, and disseminated and
massive sulphides). This, plus the fact that it is an ancient
centre of civilization, led to the ﬁrst bronze (copper-tin
alloy) to be compounded in 2900 BC, the ﬁrst iron to be
reﬁned by the Hittites in 1500 BC, and the Croesus (600
BC) Kingdom of Lydia to be established in Anatolia. Of
course, the ancients were only able to ﬁnd the richest and
most obvious deposits.
There are at least 150 archeological excavations going on
in Anatolia each year. Throughout history, Anatolian king-
doms were among the ﬁrst pioneers of metal mining (cop-
per, lead, and iron ore) and metallurgy. The ﬁrst signs of the
existence of gold in Anatolia had been discovered following
the archaeological excavations in Çorum’s Alacahöyük
region where gift items and jewelry made of gold had been
found (2500 BC). The ﬁrst coins, probably minted by the
Lydians of western Anatolia around 650 BC, were made of
gold and silver alloy (named ‘electrum’ by the ancient
Greeks). The ﬁrst true gold coins struck were those of King
Croesus of Lydia (560 to 546 BC).
Anatolian Mining Activities
Remains of ﬂint stone and some ores, in Karain Cave and
Beldibi Cavern in the Antalya region, prove that people who
lived in the Palaeolithic and Middle Stone ages around
10,000 BC had been engaged in some sort of mining activ-
ities. The oldest known settlement is in Çatalhöyük (7500
BC). Clay mining and pottery production took place in
7000 BC in the Çatalhöyük region.
The ﬁrst copper mining activities (around 6000 BC) had
been carried out by people living in the Ergani region
(Wagner and Oztunali, 2000; Wagner et al., 2002, 2003;
Pernicka et al., 2003). Later, during the Hittites era, min-
ing had developed further, and the Iron Age had begun.
Copper mining in Anatolia and minting of gold coins,
along with rich mines found in Manisa by the Lydians (Fig.
1), started in 7000 BC. Anatolian mining activities reached
a peak during the Roman period. The Romans made sig-
niﬁcant advancements in the exploring and operating of
mines, and made great progress in treating ores of lead,
copper, iron, silver, and boron as well as the use of struc-
tural building stones. Marble-decorated monumental cities
that Anatolia had inherited from the Romans had been
examples of ancient Anatolian civilizations. During the
Seljuks era, treating raw ceramic mate-
rials signiﬁcantly advanced, and art-
work in ceramic ware and mosaics
reached its peak.
(860 to 580 BC)
In eastern Anatolia, the Urartu
Kingdom was related to the Hurrians
and the Hittites in origin. From the
inscriptions discovered, the first
Urartu ruler was Aramu (860 to 840
BC), followed by Sardur I (840 to 830
BC). During the reigns of Sardur I and
his successor Ishpuinis, the capital of
Mining history in Anatolia — Part 1*
by A. Akcil, Suleyman Demirel University, Isparta, Turkey
Fig. 1. Some important mining areas in ancient times (Anatolia).
90 CIM Magazine Vol. 1, N° 1
February 2006 91
carved ivory, stone, ceramics, metal ﬁgurines, pottery, and a
wide variety of bronze domestic tools, utensils, daggers,
swords, helmets, arrows, quivers, and shields, as well as
vases, bracelets, earrings, and medallions in gold, and var-
ied sets of other jewelry (Fig. 3). In 714 BC, the Urarturian
king, Rusa, was defeated by the Assyrian king, Sargon the
Second, and had to pay a very heavy ransom composed of
one ton of gold, ﬁve tons of silver, and thousands of objects.
The Lydians and Sardis (700 to
The Lydians are related to Karians in the south and to
Mysias and Phrygs in the north. As a result of the gold
mine in Sardis (Manisa), which had been operated from
the beginning of the 7th century BC, the Lydians suddenly
prospered. Herodot claims that coining was a Lydian
The ancient city of Sardis lay along a highway that
stretched from the Persian city of Susa, following a parallel
Fig. 2. Lion protome; end of the 7th century BC,
gold weight = 57 g (Archaeologic Museum,
Fig. 3. Ancient Nairi bronze ﬁgurine, early Iron Age (Lafayette, 2003).
Fig. 4. Ruins of Sardis coin mint during the Lydian Kingdom.
Table 1. Signiﬁcant milestones of Anatolian mining during the modern era
1815 Discovery of the ﬁrst borax ﬁelds (Balıkesir)
1829 Discovery of the ﬁrst coal mines (Zonguldak)
1858 Land law was issue
1861 Mine regulation came into effect
1865 Pandermite mining started (Balıkesir)
1906 Mine regulation was issued
1933 Law number 2411 concerning the exploration of gold and oil and operational
facilities was issued
1935 Institute of Mineral Research & Exploration and Etibank was established
1939 Copper production began (Ergani)
1939 Karabük iron and steel factory was established
1952 Lead-zinc concentrate plants commenced its operation (Keban)
1955 Sulphur ﬂotation plant was established (Keçiborlu)
1956 Mines law was issued
1958 Ferro-chrome plant started operating (Antalya)
1960 Iron and steel factories were established (Ere˘gli)
1968 Borax plants started production (Bandırma)
1974 Aluminium plants started production (Seydi˘gehir)
1977 Wolfram plants started production (Uluda˘g)
1977 Phosphate plants started its trial productions (Mazıda˘gı)
1987 Silver plant started production (Gümü˘gköy)
2001 Gold plant started production (Ovacık)
Urartu, Van, steadily became larger and more prosperous.
The art of metalwork was certainly highly advanced. The
Urartians created a great metal industry, but were con-
stantly at war with the Assyrians. This was a region subject
to violent earthquakes that possessed enormous deposits of
iron ores, copper, and silver. In the hands of their crafts-
men, metals were transformed into weapons, tools, jewelry,
and artefacts (Fig. 2).
The Urartians carried many of the Hittites’ customs.
Their art of metalwork was highly advanced and their arti-
facts were exported to Phrygian and Tuscany. The excava-
tions of the ancient Urartian site of Garmir-Ploor included
course to the Tigris River, passing through Cappadocia. The
Lydian Kingdom made Sardis its capital as early as 700 BC.
The ﬁrst king of the Mermnad Dynasty was Gyges (687 to
652 BC), who was credited with the invention of the ﬁrst
In excavations in the early 1980s, crucibles and a few
gold objects proved to modern archaeologists the existence
of the gold-reﬁning process in the 6th century BC (Yener et
The excavators found the parting furnaces and cupella-
tion hearths associated with
gold reﬁning and silver recov-
ery (Fig. 4). Some Lydian gold
jewelry includes a nugget pen-
dant from the Museum of Ana-
tolian Civilization in Ankara
and a number of Lydian coins in
the British Museum (Yener et
al., 1994; Andrew and Crad-
dock, 2000). Lydian coins were
chronologically followed by the
coins of the early Hellenistic
cities and states. Hellenistic
coins usually have ﬂoral and
animal ﬁgures with occasional
thematic works and symbols
(Fig. 5). The coins also bear the
pictures and ﬁgures of the geo-
graphical regions, people, gods,
The name Bergama, a dis-
trict of Izmir located 25 kilo-
metres further away from the
Agean Sea, comes from its
ancient name ‘Pergamon.’ The
foundation date is not known,
however, the city walls were
built in 7 BC. In 547 BC, Perg-
amon was in the hands of the Persians who invaded Ana-
tolia and settled there. The city was taken by Alexander
the Great in 334 BC, and then by King Philaetairos after
Alexander’s death. Following Lysimakhos’ death, Philae-
toiros founded a new autonomous civilization and Perg-
amon continued to be the cultural centre of the
kingdom. Various monuments such as an acropolis and a
theatre were erected in the city, which came under
Roman rule. The city boasted a glorious library, a popu-
lation of 120,000, and parshomen paper that was pro-
duced from the leather that the city takes its name from.
Just after 1341, Pergamon was taken over by the
The nearby Ovacik gold mine was partly discovered due
to diligent archaeological research for the Roman Empire.
Today, the town of Bergama is also famous for its cotton,
carpets, and gold production (Akcil, 2002; Akcil and
The author would like to thank Fathi Habashi and Salim
Ayduz for their contributions and collaborations. The
author also thanks Uluc Gencer for photographing the
92 CIM Magazine Vol. 1, N° 1
Fig. 5. Gold coin from the Lydian Kingdom (head of roaring lion right,
knob with multiple rays on forehead / double incuse punch, gold weight
= 4.35 grams) (Wildwinds Communications, 2005).
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