Chuquicamata and other pre-Columbian mining operations
North American prospectors preferred to start prospecting and digging at sites where they could see traces of older mining operations. That was also the case in 1899, when prospectors started work at the Restauradora Mine at Chuquicamata in Antofagasta Province in Northern Chile. At a depth of about 2.1 metres in a "glory hole", a subsided mineworking filled with waste, they found the body of a miner who had evidently been killed in an accident centuries before, together with his tools. The body of the man was well-preserved and it was soon clear that this was a very special find. Everyone wanted to have their picture taken together with the mummy and these photographs are now the main documentary evidence of this extraordinary find.
The news travelled round the world and was reported in a number of newspaper articles and found its way into children's books, not without some distortion and exaggeration. It was only in 1975 that Junius Bird of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) presented a reliable report on the find and the circumstances surrounding it. His conclusions concerning the mummy are presented in this article. In addition the information available on the technology and organization of mining and processing operations is outlined for a few key minerals on the basis of archaeological sources.