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Technical presentations, 6K
Silver Production in Porco, Bolivia


The presentation was taken from the speaker’s postgraduate research for a PhD. The first part of the presentation described archaeometallurgy, which is the study of the history and pre-history of metals and their use through humans. There followed the history of the Porco – Potosí area of Bolivia from pre-Inca to the Republican onwards era.

A review of indigenous and current silver production described a two-stage process: (a) lead smelting in a huayrachina furnace; and (b) refining of silver rich ores by cupellation. Huayrachinas were used by indigenous people to smelt silver.  This technology was thought to have become extinct by the early 20th century. However, in 2001, a retired miner Don Carlos Cuiza was found who continues to smelt using this traditional technology. The huayrachina is fuel efficient but relatively inefficient in producing lead. There were many huayrachina sites found across the area, e.g. at Uruquilla.

The speaker reached two conclusions from the results of her research. However, more analysis is needed of more sites to be more certain of what process took place. For the future, the speaker looked to establish what the Inca and pre-Inca people used for refining silver.

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