The Prophetic Telegraph  No.77a

The Ancient Mining of Tin

[This paper follows on logically from PT 77]

We have recently returned [April 1999] from a holiday in Cornwall, during which I did some further research into ancient tin mining in that extreme western-most tip now known as West Penwith, but as Belerium in former days, as I revealed in my last paper. Tin mining is now all but defunct in Cornwall. The last mine to close was South Crofty in Redruth, and although there has been a recent endeavour to re-open it, economically it will be difficult to make it viable due to keen competition from South East Asia. It is therefore the end of an era which has lasted for a long time, in fact probably 4,000 years! "Tin and Pilchards" used to be the major industries of Cornwall. Tin has now slipped into history, and fishing has been blighted by E.C. regulations. In addition, the Pilchards seem to have gone elsewhere.

We visited Geevor Tin Mine. It was one of those that had closed fairly recently, and is now run by English Heritage as a museum. Sited almost on the coast near Land's End, we drove up on a cold, windy, rainy day that gave the whole area a bleak and almost ghostly impression. Everything had been left exactly as it was the day the mine closed, and it was weird. Machinery was rusting away. But here and there an electric motor had been turned on to show visitors how the plant operated. The largest complex was the Mill House, where the ore, brought up from the bowels of the earth, was first broken up into small pieces, and then crushed into grit by the Stamps. We imagined William Blake, as he visited a Cornish Tin Mine such as this, afterwards writing those immortal words in his poem "Jerusalem" - about "the dark satanic mills". Blake was firmly persuaded by the mass of legendary tales, that our Lord had indeed visited "England's green and pleasant land".

In this paper I want to investigate the ancient mining industry, not just in Cornwall, but also in other parts of the world, and try to find what can be known. The records quoted in PT 77 were sufficient to prove that tin was a most important commodity in the ancient world, without which bronze could not be made. The Bible makes reference to bronze, though usually it is translated brass. But as the following quotation from Hastings Bible Dictionary shows, it must surely be a bad translation.

"Brass is composed of copper and zinc in the proportion of 2 of the former to 1 of the latter. The word is of frequent use in the Bible, but it is uncertain whether in any instance it means the alloy just described, as brass is very rarely found amongst the remains of early cities; while, on the other hand, weapons and implements of copper and bronze are abundant. - - - The abundance of bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin, amongst the early nations both of Asia and Europe is the more remarkable as tin is of rare occurrence; but its value in giving hardness and other qualities to copper was discovered more than 2000 years B.C. Thus knives, hatchets, hammers, spears, and other articles, both of copper and of bronze, have been discovered amongst the ruins of Chaldea dating back to about 2286 B.C. [Footnote here, quoting Rawlinson as the authority.] The use of copper, bronze, and other metals was known to the ancient Egyptians before the Exodus, and they appear to have understood the art both of hardening bronze and of making it flexible to a degree unknown to us." [Footnote here, quoting Wilkinson's "History of Ancient Egypt."] . . . E. HULL

This article from Hastings was my starting point for further investigation, and I would like to share with my readers how one thing led to another in finding some items of most interesting and informative value. First of all, Dr. Edward Hull made mention of Chaldea in his article, and the extremely ancient artifacts of bronze found there, so I turned up the word Chaldea in Young's Concordance and found the original Hebrew word derived from KESED. The Chaldeans were the KAS'DIM. But a glance at the Septuagint Greek Version of the O.T. showed that in each and every case, KAS'DIM had been translated caldaioi (Chaldeans).This raised the question, why did the Greeks change the second letter from S to L? [It must be stated here for the sake of those who do not make a study of ancient languages, that VOWELS are of a more recent addition to language. The word KESED quoted above is a triliteral word in Hebrew, just      K-S-D. The two Es were added later by placing small dots under the letters. The Greeks had changed the K-S-D to K-L-D, and added the vowels.] This swapping of letters has so far foxed me. No source or authority has given me any clue as to the reason for the change. However, we can move on from that to something more important, in other words, the name KESED, which occurs throughout the Hebrew Old Testament in the plural form of KAS'DIM from Genesis to the Prophets.

Who were the Chaldeans? There appears to be some mystery about their origin. Let's turn again to Hastings Bible Dictionary, and see what Ira M. Price had to say.

"The origin of the Chaldeans is enveloped in the mists of antiquity. Whence and when they migrated into lower Babylonia is an unsolved riddle."

She went on to say that there appeared to be a connection with the people known as the Kassites, who were strongly Semitic, and their language "was Babylonian cuneiform, almost identical grammatically and lexically with the Assyrian." Strange as it may seem, the very mention of Kassites should, I think, have aroused suspicion that there was a grammatical connection between the two, but it seems to have been overlooked. Kassite, when broken down into its original consonantal form is none other than K-S-T, and this is very nearly the same as K-S-D, in fact the D and the T were always interchangeable, being of almost the same sound.

This caused me to investigate the word K-S-T further, because it forms the basis of the Greek word for Tin, being KassiteroV [Kassiteros], from which is derived the Greek and Roman name of Cornwall, Cassiterides. I turned to the Bible Cyclopaedia, by Rev. A.R.Fausset, 1885, and found this most illuminating entry -

"TIN. Hebrew BEDIL*; Greek KASSITEROS, whence comes CASSITERIDES. - - Arabic KASDEER, Sanskrit KASTIRA, Egyptian KHASIT."

*However, by referring to Gesenius’s Hebrew Lexicon, one finds that whenever BEDIL occurs in the Hebrew text, it speaks about ALLOY rather than TIN. We therefore reject BEDIL, which is a completely different word than KESED, which we believe to be the primary Hebrew word for TIN.

According to Price, the Chaldeans were strongly Semitic. This now seems to be a proven fact by language, if for no other reason. Furthermore, the word for Tin may be the link we are looking for. Here is the information from the Bible Cyclopaedia in tabular form, to highlight the connections.

The words for "Tin"


K -- S -- D









I have arranged the letters to show that, regardless of the vowels, which are quite incidental, each of the words retains the same triliteral form, so common in Hebrew. So who were the Chaldeans, a Septuagint Greek word forever cloaking their real identity? They were the Kesedim, Kas'dim, Kassites, or any other word which retains this triliteral form of K-S-T or K-S-D. But this word means Tin. One may therefore ask the more pertinent question, were the Kas'dim Tin Merchants, Tin Miners, Tin Workers? Hull's article on Brass, quoted above, showed us very clearly that Brass (which turned out to be Bronze) was very much in evidence in the very region assigned by historians to Babylonia, where such an abundance of bronze artifacts have been unearthed. There can be no doubt that Tin was used, alloyed with Copper, to make these implements. Where did they get their Tin? W.M.Flinders Petrie, writing in Hastings Bible Dictionary, has this to say.

"TIN was known as an alloy with Copper at least as early as 1600 B.C. in Egypt, and probably before 2000 B.C. in Europe. It was also prepared pure in Egypt at least by 1400 B.C. The source of it is much debated. Banca, Spain, and Britain have all been proposed. That it appears as an alloy earlier in Europe than in Egypt shows that it was European. - - - The word used by Homer (Iliad xviii. 474 and 613) kassiteroV, is the same as the Arabic kasdeer, probably derived from ancient Phoenician. Certain it is that these mariners brought Tin from the Cassiterides, which embraced the Scilly Isles and the coast of Cornwall (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, Vol.iii.). One of the most remarkable facts connected with the early races in Europe and Asia was the extensive use of weapons and implements of Bronze; and Sir John Evans shows that the use of Bronze preceded that of Iron in Egypt (Ancient Bronze Implements, pp.7,8)."

Here we find another collection of important facts that corroborate the earlier articles, and strongly suggest that there was a connection between Babylonia, the Semitic races, and Britain as far back as the days of Abraham. Flinders Petrie mentioned the works of the ancient Greek poet Homer, traditionally placed at about 850 B.C. by Herodotus, but often placed much earlier by modern historians, even as far back as 1200 B.C. Whatever the date, it was more or less in the days of the Israelite Kingdom era, beginning with David and Solomon about 1000 B.C. Homer, writing about the blacksmith-god Hephaestus, said that "He cast imperishable Bronze on the fire, and some Tin, and precious Gold and Silver. Then he put a great anvil on the stand and gripped a strong hammer in one hand and a pair of tongs in the other. He began by making a large and powerful shield, adorned all over, finished with a bright triple rim of gleaming metal, and fitted with a silver baldric [shoulder-belt]." The story goes on to show how Hephaestus made other parts of Achilles' armour, finishing with "greaves of pliant Tin. When the renowned lame god had finished every piece, he gathered them up and laid them before Achilles' Mother. She took the glittering armour from Hephaestus and swooped down with it like a falcon from snow-clad Olympus."

Regardless of the mythical content of the story, the fact that Homer wrote as he did showed that he was aware of the use of Tin in making the alloy Bronze. It might be instructive here to record something that Biblical scholars will treat with more respect than Homer, namely the 28th chapter of Job, considered by analysts to be the oldest of the Hebrew O.T. writings.

"There are mines for Silver, and places where men refine Gold, where Iron is won from the earth and Copper smelted from the ore. The end of the seam lies in darkness, and it is followed to its farthest limit. Strangers cut the galleries; they are forgotten as they drive forward far from men. While corn is springing from the earth above, what lies beneath is raked over like a fire, and out of its rocks comes lapis lazuli (or sapphires) dusted with flecks of Gold. No bird of prey knows the way there, and the falcon's keen eye cannot descry it; proud beasts do not set foot on it, and no serpent comes that way. Man sets his hand to the granite rock and lays bare the roots of the mountains; he cuts galleries in the rocks, and gems of every kind meet his eye. He dams up the sources of the streams and brings the hidden riches of the earth to light." (New English Bible Version)

No mention was made of Tin, but the picture painted by Job shows that the ways of miners were known at a very early date. Maybe the mines known by Job produced no Tin, because its origin was elsewhere, in other words Europe, as Flinders Petrie said. It is dangerous to establish facts based on silence, but this does remain as a possibility. Some of the books I have read about Tin mining in Cornwall were almost identical to Job in their description of mining.

I should now like to turn to the Biblical references to the Chaldeans, and in particular to those references where the word is found in connection with Ur, believed to be a very ancient city in southern Babylonia, near to the Persian Gulf, and considered to have been a port in earlier times, before silting up left it high and dry, some miles inland. In quoting these references, I shall have to include all those others which use the same word as Ur in Hebrew, but use it in its basic meaning of "fire". There is a very pressing reason for this, which will become apparent in due course.

Gen.11:28 And Haran died before [Heb. in the presence of] his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur Kas'dim.

Gen.11:31 And Terah took his son Abram and Lot, the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife, and went forth with them from Ur Kas'dim to go into the land of Canaan.

Gen.15:7 I am Jehovah who caused you to come out of Ur Kas'dim, to give you this land to inherit it.

Neh. 9:7 God brought him forth out of Ur Kas'dim and gave him the name of Abraham.

Isa.24:14-16 They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the FIRES, even the name of the Lord God of Israel from the islands of the sea. From the uttermost part [Heb. wing] of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the Righteous One.

Isa.31:9 He [the Assyrian] shall retreat to his stronghold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, says the Lord, whose FIRE is in Zion, His furnace [Heb. THAN-UR, a compound of UR] in Jerusalem.

Isa.44:16 He warms himself and says, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the FIRE.

Isa.47:14 There shall not be a coal to warm at, nor a FIRE to sit before it.

There are a couple of other references, which need not be produced here because they add nothing to what has already been displayed. The whole point of this exercise was to show that the basic meaning of Ur is FIRE, or a FURNACE. Now this is where we might be accused of taking a flight of fancy, but I cannot help but feel there is something more to this expression than "Ur of the Chaldees". If Chaldees = Kas'dim, and Kas'dim is connected with the Tinners, then Ur could very well be "Furnace", so that it could be translated "The Furnace of the Tinners". Because there happened to be a place called Ur, by no means disproves this, because if that was the very region where the smelting was done in those bygone days, it would attract a name by which it became known, i.e., "The Furnace". In England, the Staffordshire towns which comprised Stoke-on-Trent became known as "The Potteries". The South Staffordshire coalfield, north of Birmingham, became known as the "Black Country" because of the grime produced by 19th century industrialisation. No doubt there are other such appellations that might come to mind.

An objection might be raised here. The furnaces were indeed well known at Ur, but NOT for tin smelting. They were for baking bricks for the Ziggurats. There is plenty of evidence to show that the OUTER layers of these pyramidal structures were comprised of bricks baked in a kiln. But I would suggest that this is not the whole story. There were ziggurats built all over Babylonia in those early days, the mud from the Euphrates River being used to make the bricks. Did all the bricks come from Ur? Wouldn't it have been more sensible to construct brick-kilns near each of the sites, rather than have to transport them many miles over land to the sites? In which case, Ur was noted, not for its brick-kilns, but for the furnaces connected with smelting, and making bronze implements. There is abundant evidence for the use of Bronze in that region, just as much as the evidence of the brick-kilns, and I believe the two should not be confounded with each other.

Another point of interest from the Ur references concerns the use of the expression "Ur of the Kas'dim". Why did O.T. writers ALWAYS refer to Ur in this way? If Ur was a town, it would have been sufficient just to mention it without the accompanying "Kas'dim". There seems to be no other such appellation in the O.T. when cities are mentioned, unless two such towns have the same name, thereby needing a phrase to distinguish which is meant. But there was only ONE city of Ur, and therefore it needed no such distinguishing marks. But if our assertion be correct, that the Kas'dim were Tinners, then a whole new understanding is opened up.

In Genesis 11:28 we are told that Haran died in the sight of his father Terah in Ur Kas'dim. What about translating it in another way? "Haran died in the sight of his father in the Tinner's Furnace." Centuries later three men were thrown into a fiery furnace in Babylon, so could it have been a Babylonian practice to deal thus with offenders? Is there any suggestion that this could have been the case? In point of fact there is, and I should like to adduce the evidence here because many of my readers will not have appreciated that such ancient literature exists. I refer to the "Book of Jashar" which is twice mentioned in the Old Testament, [in Joshua and 2nd Samuel] and was thought to be lost. But it was found in Jerusalem at the time of its capture by Titus, and taken from there, to appear in Venice in 1613, where it was printed. The English translation was made in 1840. The original was found to be in pure Rabbinic Hebrew, and its translation runs to 91 chapters, and 267 pages in the edition that I now possess. I have found this work an invaluable aid to understanding some of the rather obscure passages in Genesis.

In chapter 12 of Jashar there is the account of what happened to Abram when he was fifty years of age, living in the land of Shinar with his father Terah, and his two elder brothers Haran and Nahor. Abram had the audacity to broach the subject of idolatry before the King, whose name was Nimrod, and as a result he was thrown into prison for ten days. At the end of this time, he was brought forth and thrown into "the king's furnace", together with his brother Haran. Haran perished, as his father Terah watched the spectacle, but Abram was miraculously preserved, and came forth from the furnace unscathed. And in verse 37 we read that "Haran was eighty-two years old when he died in the furnace of Kas'dim."

And so, in Genesis 15:7 we can read it as follows - "I am the Lord, who brought you out of the Tinner's Furnace." In later times, Nehemiah had occasion to refer to this event - (9:7) "And God brought him forth out of the Tinners' Furnace and called his name Abraham." The Book of Jashar is literally "The Book of the Upright", referring to the Scribes who collected and consulted ancient documents and tablets, and gathered the stories together into one growing volume of multiple editorship. The fact that Ur of the Chaldees is not mentioned, but the Furnace of the Cas'dim is, shows that the proposed interpretation made here is not so "way out" after all.

If we are correct in all these assumptions, then we should logically ask, where did the Kas'dim get their Tin? But we could equally well ask, why did Cornwall and the Scilly Isles attract the name of the Cassiterides, which as we have seen, derives directly from Kesed, one of the people born to the family of Shem after the Flood? Surely there must be a connection between the two, and if so, then there was a very ancient sea-going trade between the Middle East and Cornwall, going back at least to the time of Abraham, and possibly earlier. It should not strike one as strange or impossible that this should have been the case. We are programmed these days to think of the ancients as little better than cave men, lacking in proper language, wearing skins, and having vanishingly small intelligence. But this is the spin-off from the evolutionists' theories, and in no way accords with archaeology, where vast quantities of structures, artifacts, houses and implements have been unearthed displaying the results of intelligence equally as superior as modern man, and in some cases more advanced. It has been well said that modern man could not build a structure like the Great Pyramid, and yet its age is estimated to be only just post-diluvial, in other words about 4500 years ago. How do we account for that? The same might be said for some of the architecture found in the Middle Americas, such as the Great Wall of the Incas, the chronological system of the Mayas, and so on.

Returning now to the subject of the tin mines of Cornwall, we have seen that Greeks and Romans called our Islands the Cassiterides. May I suggest that just as the family of Kesed became Tinners, and gave their name to the people later to be called Chaldees, so making that region of Babylonia famous for its Tin working, so Britain (and particularly Cornwall) became famous as the SOURCE of much of the Tin, thereby attracting that name which is derived from Kesed. When in later times Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain with a number of his fellow-brethren, they were called Culdees, a word which has attracted a lot of attention, and received numerous possible interpretations, but seems to me to be so similar to Chaldees that the point was only missed because the Chaldees have not hitherto been seen to be amongst the first to smelt and use Tin. Joseph, being in the Tin Trade, as so many Cornish legends declare, could not help but be called Chaldee, inasmuch as the name was IN THOSE DAYS still understood to be connected with the Semitic people who worked Tin.

Linguists who have studied the Cornish language declare that many words can be traced to a primary Hebrew source, and I would like to illustrate this by reference to just one word, and its "family tree". The word is HORN. Now, if we look at this English word from the viewpoint of ancient languages, we can straightway eliminate the vowel O, and are left with a triliteral root of H-R-N. This derives from the Hebrew KEREN, which is again, K-R-N. Our English word therefore comes from the Hebrew. But in Cornwall, the whole peninsula was once considered the "Horn of England", and therefore its Cornish name became Kernew. The K-R-N is still visible. Furthermore, a rocky prominence in Cornwall is known as a CARN, again showing the root. Of passing interest it may be said that this triliteral word is found in almost all languages, for example, Gothic HAURN, Celtic CORN, Latin CORNU, Italian CORNO, Dutch HOREN, Spanish CUERNO, French CORNE. And the original Hebrew KEREN is identical in Syriac and Arabic as well. The only major language that hasn’t kept to the triliteral rule is Greek, where the word became KEREIA, the final N being left out.

Our English word Tin derives from the Cornish Sten (pronounced Stayn), which in turn comes from the Latin Stannum, from which comes the word Stanneries, where Tin is smelted. The influence of Greece, Rome, and the Hebrews is all too evident to be dismissed in Cornwall. Jew is Yedhow, a Jewess is Yedhowes, Hebrew is Yedhowek, showing the connection with Judah, which was pronounced Yehudah by the Jews. Silver is Arghans (Latin Argentum), Lead is Plom (Latin Plumbum) and Copper is Cober (Latin Cuprum, the same as Cyprus, where much ancient copper was mined, and which gave its name to the island, in the same way that we referred above to England's "Potteries", and "Black Country".)

In all these investigations, there is much to learn, and great excitement when connections are made which explain and elucidate ancient history quite apart from archaeology. I hope that this paper has been of interest and help to those who read it, as much as the satisfaction I obtained in the studies I undertook.