Metallic desperation

New evidence has been found of the first-known European extraction of silver in the New World. According to archaeologist Kathleen Deagan of the University of Florida, the last inhabitants of Christopher ColumbusÕ first settlement, at La Isabela on modern-day Dominican Republic's north coast, desperately tried to extract silver from lead ore that had originally been brought from Spain but abandoned their failed efforts in 1498. Deagan collaborated with geoscientists and metallurgists to figure out how a smelting operation at the site that apparently used 200 pounds of the silver-bearing lead ore galena functioned. "We first thought they mined the galena locally to extract lead for weapons, such as lead shot and musket balls or ship sheathing," explains Deagan, "But an isotope analysis showed it was actually from Spain." Further metallurgical analysis shows that the settlers were desperately trying to extract silver before they finally abandoned the settlement.