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Keywords:

  • Cave;
  • Mining;
  • Bronze age;
  • Britain;
  • Lead;
  • Speleothem;
  • Laser ablation

The laser ablation ICP–MS transect of a speleothem from GB Cave, close to Charterhouse, Mendip Hills, UK, records Pb variations over the past 5 ka. The speleothem record correlates well with the known historical record of lead mining in the district, the principal features of which include: the Roman lead mining peak; the Dark Ages cessation; gradual, episodic revival up to the late 16th century peak; the 17th century collapse and subsequent recovery; and the final short-lived burst at the end of the 19th century. This correlation supports the assumption that the pre-Roman lead record also derives from local mining. Thus, this record is the first example of quantifying ancient human mining activity through trace element signature of a speleothem. This record also provides the first solid evidence of significant pre-Roman mining activity in the Charterhouse region, and the first solid dating of that activity. This pre-Roman mining can be divided into three main peaks dated to 1800–1500 bc, 1100–800 bc and 350–0 bc.