Damnatus ut Artifex: The craft of mining in the Roman provinces



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The laborers in the Roman mines, whether they were condemned or motivated for profit, have often been overlooked for their role in the extraction of resources throughout the Roman provinces. This thesis argues for the presence of skill in every facet of the mining process from the swinging of picks and hammers to the use of various forms of technology such as fire-setting, smelting, or hushing. Using a comparative methodology, contextualized by the rapidly expanding field of technological studies, two provincial mines located on opposite ends of the Roman empire are juxtaposed, so that their differences may cause the application of skills at both sites to rise to the surface and reveal their similarities. The two mines used in this comparison are Dolaucothi, a Roman gold mine located in southern Wales, and Umm al Amad, a copper mine associated with Phaino in the Faynan in Jordan. The stark differences in the climate, topography, and geologic regime of these two mines provide the opportunity for a katachresis, which reveals the presence of skill, regardless of which territory was being mined. With very few literary sources discussing these areas, the material memory that is present in these locales is extremely important in the search for the presence of skill. Skill is not something that may be seen, but its presence can be drawn out from the material memory carved into the landscape. The uniformity of the pick strikes and vast amount of slag at Umm al Amad and the burned rock and leats carved into the landscape at Dolaucothi argue for the presence of skilled labor in the extraction process. Rather than reifying these laborers as tools used by the Roman empire to accomplish tasks, this thesis attempts to establish the skillset and role of those who have been left voiceless to us today.



Mining, Craftsmanship, Rome, Slaves, Skill