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Potosi silver mine, Bolivia, 19th century

Potosi silver mine, Bolivia, 19th century

C028/9560

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Credit

PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Potosi silver mine, Bolivia, 19th-century illustration. The silver mine and mountain of Potosi was one of the world's largest silver deposits, providing the bulk of the silver used by Spain in the Spanish Empire of the New World. Silver Reales (pieces of eight) often came from here and were used worldwide. The town of Potosi was founded in 1545 and grew quickly, at once point having a population of over 200,000. Many indigenous people were killed mining there, through disease, fatigue and danger. Some were forced labour, others were wage-earning or contractual workers. African slaves were also brought to the site. This aquatint engraving dates from the 1800s.

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