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From the Oldest Mining Area on Earth?

Content image: From the Oldest Mining Area on Earth?

This chance discovery in the TVM shed turned out to be very interesting indeed.

The specimen itself comprises very rich crystalline cinnabar in quartz matrix, coming to us from old collection material from Germany.

Labelled simply as Grube Sizma, b. Konya, Turkey it was not a place I had come across before so some research was needed.

This is what I was able to find out:


Sizma is a small village in the Konya province of Central Anatolia in Turkey. Along with carpet weaving, the place grew up around the importance of its local mercury deposits.   

Biiyuk Mine - (courtesy Hasan Baha) Google Map



The Sizma mines consist of a cluster of three main mines the Biiyuk, Qalica, and Medrese and numerous small workings and pits lying at an altitude of 1,650 to 1,850m on the slopes outside the village of Sizma a few Km South. The most productive being the Biiyiik mine.


Cinnabar for use a red pigment has been mined/gathered in the Sizma area since prehistory, in fact carbon dating on skulls found in the area and bearing the pigments, have set a date of 6280 BC.

Also nearby a large hearth for a mercury retort has been discovered where it is believed the mercury refined from the cinnabar was also used in the refinement of gold. The likelehood is this mining originates back to 8000BC!

Evidence of ancient mining at Biiyuk existed as a near-surface cavernous stope sadly obliterated by development of recent opencuts. 

The phase of recent mining began again in 1904 with the development both opencast and some 1.3km of underground workings.

Mining continued up until the early 1970s.    


Cinnabar is the most important mercury mineral, but metacinnabar and native mercury occur in small amounts. Presence of mercury-bearing tetrahedrite is suggested by the occurrence of oxidized copper minerals, but very rare. 

Stibnite accompanies cinnabar in milky quartz in the largest deposit. Quartz occurs with cinnabar. Hydrothermal calcite occurs in veins with cinnabar and coarsely crystalline purple fluorite accompanies cinnabar, quartz, and calcite in veins in limestone, where it is a fairly common gangue mineral. Baryte has also been reported.

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