Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Gümüşlük’s Silver Mine – Known Knowns and Known Unknowns

Back during the dark nights of winter with nothing better to do and having read the odd comment about the silver mine which gave Gümüşlük its name, I ran a series of internet searches to see if there were any online articles relating to mining activity in the area.

Spoiler Alert: there is no great reveal at the end of this post.

It is generally accepted that the name Gümüşlük harks back a tradition of silver mining in the area, Gümüş being the Turkish word for silver, but there are very few historical references to the mine or associated ore processing activities. G. E. Bean in Turkey beyond the Meander comments “The silver mines, traces of which have been found in the neighbourhood, and which have given its name to the village of Gümüşlük, are not mentioned in any ancient sources”.

The earliest reports I have been able to find come from W.R Paton and J.L. Myres.

William Roger Paton, classicist, author and translator of Greek texts regularly resided in Gümüşlük between 1885 and 1900.

John Linton Myres having graduated with a 1st in Greats, awarded a Burdett-Coutts scholarship in Geology and a Craven Fellowship, arranged to spend three months in 1893 with Paton at the family house in Gümüşlük.

Patton first mentions the mine in 1890 when describing his collection of silver Myndian drachmae “The existence in the territory of Myndus of a silver mine, which was, no doubt worked in antiquity...”

Several years later Paton and Myres in their Researches in Karia, published in 1987, describe “The great silver mine...” which can be seen in the hills behind the village. They go on to describe a large irregular shaft, which at the time was flooded with water to with 30ft of the surface, adding that there were still veins of “silver lead” in the neighbourhood.

They also mention that the beach to the south of the harbour was strewn with slag from silver furnaces and that they identified the remains of an exposed furnace approximately 4ft in diameter on the “hollow way” leading from the shoreline towards Kadikalesi.

In a later article published in 1920 Myres again refers to the mine at Gümüşlük “A large vein of silver ore close to Myndos was worked in later Greek times, and probably until the Turkish conquest, as the modern name Gumushlu indicates...”.

G.E. Bean and J.M. Cook whose comprehensive report on Myndos included in The Halicarnassus Peninsula only briefly mention the silver mine as a possible source of income in later times and refers to Paton’s & Myers’ Researches in Karia.

Comments in two more recent publications suggest that samples of ore from the Gümüşlük area have been analysed.

S. Wolf and others Lead Isotope Analyses of Islamic Pottery Glazes from Fusat, Egypt (2003) describing the comparisons of lead isotope ratios found in the glaze of lustre ware with that of ore sampled at three sites states that “...Gumusluk remains a possibility since there is evidence for silver extraction in the medieval period...”

S.P. Morris Daidalos and the Origins of Greek Art (1992): “Recent research has identified both ancient slag and mines, the latter in use until the twentieth century, near the site of ancient Myndus...”

Both of the above cite a 1986 paper by G. A. Wagner and others Geochemische und isotopische Charakteristika früher Rohstoffquellen für Kupfer, Blei, Silber und Gold in der Türkei (Geochemical and Isotopic Characteristics of Raw Materials for Copper, Lead, Silver and Gold in Turkey).

Unfortunately this document, published in the Yearbook of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Vol 36, is not listed on the Museum’s online archive and does not appear to be available through any other open access sites.

The context in which the mine is referenced above covers a wide timescale. The work on lead glazes relates to pottery dated between 975 – 1025 AD and the chapter in Morris’ book, which mentions the mine, discusses possible Phoenician trade routes.

Morris’ comment that the mine was worked until the 20th century is questionable considering that Paton and Myres stated that the shaft was flooded in 1893 and none of the visitors earlier in the 19th century i.e. Capt F. Beaufort RN (1811-1812) Rev C.B. Elliot (1830s), Lt Cdr T. Graves RN (1837) or C.T. Newton (1857) made any reference to the evidence of mining activity in the area.

An ethnographical study conducted in 1967 by anthropologist June Starr may suggest that there is little or no oral history relating to the mine. Starr interviewed two residents, both in their 70s, and although they spoke about life in village before the foundation of the republic and one recalled an earlier history of the Greek settlers in the mid 19th century, Starr records no mention of mining.

In an article discussing mines in the Ottoman Sanjak of Menteşe (Muğla) during the 19th and 20th century, Arzu Baykara Taşkaya lists several registered mining claims in the area. These include a carborundum mine north of Bodrum and another at Karakaya, manganese mines at Dereköy, Konacık, Geriş and Peksimet, and “silver mines in the feet of Bozdağ of Peksimet village”. However it appears that none of these claims were worked due to low reserves.

There is also reference to a “silvery lead mine registered on behalf of the treasury around Karakaya village”; Gümüşlük is mentioned but only in regard to the etymology of the place name.

The term “silvery lead” and “silver lead” has cropped up several times, this along with the work on lead isotopes, may suggest that the mineral being mined was argentiferous galena, a lead ore which can contain up to 2% silver. There is evidence for the practice of processing galena, to separate the silver from the lead, in Asia Minor from as early as the 4th millennium BC.

So there you have it my known unknowns i.e. the location and period of operation, are still unresolved.

On the off chance that someone else may want to take this further I’ve listed the books and articles referred to above.

The missing link may be Wagner, G.A, E. Pernicka, and T.C Seeliger. "Geochemische Und Isotopische Charakteristika Früher Rohstoffquellen Für Kupfer, Blei, Silber Und Gold in Der Türkei."Jahrbuch Des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz, 33.1986. The closest I got to this article is the University Library at Heidelberg but access appears to be restricted to students or members of associated institutions.

Bean, G. E. Turkey Beyond the Maeander. London: Murray, 1989.

Morris, S.P.Daidalos and the Origins of Greek Art, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995


Myres J.N.L “Commander J.L. Myres R.N.V.R. The Blackbeard of the Aegean” The Tenth J.L. Myres Memorial Lecture. London: Leopard’s Head Press, 1980

Starr, J. Dispute and Settlement in Rural Turkey: an ethnography of law. Leiden: Brill, 1978.

Baykara Taşkaya, A, “Chromium Mines in Köyceğiz and Mine Operation Grants In 19th And 20th Centuries” Dumlupınar Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi,, Issue 31, 2011, pp. 69-83

Bean, G. E., and J. M. Cooke. "The Halicarnassus Peninsula." Annual of the British School at Athens 50 (1955): pp 85-171.

Myres, J. L. “The Dodecanese.” The Geographical Journal, vol. 56, no. 5, 1920, pp. 329–347., 


Paton, W. R. “Find of Coins near Halicarnassus.” The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Numismatic Society, vol. 10, 1890, pp. 279–281.


Paton, W. R., and J. L. Myres. “Researches in Karia.” The Geographical Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, 1897, pp. 38–54.


Wolf, S. Stos, S. Mason, R. Tite, M. “Lead Isotope analyses of Islamic Pottery Glazes from Fustat, Egypt” Archaeometry vol 45. 3. 2003, pp. 405 – 420. 


  1. You really are a mine of information. Thank you.

    1. It was frustrating not to be able to access the German paper. I thought I’d tracked down a copy at your alma mater but they only hold later volumes of the journal.