The anthropic landscape imprint around one of the largest Roman hydraulic gold mines in Europe: Sierra del Teleno (NW Spain)

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This study explores the information gathered from the landscape transformation that occurred during the intense period of Roman hydraulic gold mining activity in northwest Spain. The Sierra del Teleno and its surroundings are characterised by the presence of Quaternary glacial and periglacial deposits and, locally, Neogene alluvial sediments, which were intensely mined by the Romans. However, the mining debris often obscures natural deposits, making their identification and description a challenging task. The aim of this study is to determine the existence of specific geomorphological features that can improve the identification of anthropic elements related to mining activity. River captures and widened drainage systems are among the most outstanding structures remaining, due to the extent and complexity of the work involved. However, other mining elements, such as anthropic modification of alluvial fans, moraine deposits and rock ridges are also evident in the landscape. In many cases, these remains are linked to the hydrologic infrastructure found in the area, which mainly comprises an extensive system of natural and man-made channels and distribution water-tanks. Difficulties arise in areas where no such structures are found. Thus, the use of geomorphic elements and patterns can help to distinguish natural and anthropic landforms. Using this approach, therefore, we have performed the first systematic and detailed analysis of the morphological imprint of Roman hydraulic gold mining activity on the landscape. These data will help piece together the puzzle of how the landscape was transformed by Roman mining activity, and can contribute to discussions surrounding the new epoch: The Anthropocene.
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