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The Great Orme Copper Mines in North Wales - the world's largest copper mining complex in the Bronze Age? 

 The Great Orme Mines and Country Park are to be found just outside the North Wales resort town of Llandudno. The name "Orme" was apparently given by the Vikings and means "worm or sea-serpent". This is how the carboniferous limestone hill might have appeared to those approaching by sea, as it gradually became apparent  through the mists. 

The top of the Great Orme has views "comparable with those from the far loftier summits in Snowdonia" and can be reached by road or via a 1902 tramway. There is a bar and restaurant complex, visitor centre and picnic areas - but the Great Orme's historical interest lies underground. In the 19th century, the old mine workings were assumed to be Roman but since serious modern excavation began in 1987, over four miles of tunnels dating between 1860 B.C. and 600 B.C. have been surveyed. In 1995 Mark Randall (in a University College London dissertation) estimated that up to 1,769 tonnes of copper metal were extracted from the mine during the Bronze age.  This figure, based only on the surveyed area of the workings, would make the Great Orme the pre-eminent source of copper in the Bronze Age. 

No doubt, in years to come, technical analysis of bronze age artefacts will allow the copper content (90 per cent of bronze) to be fingerprinted and traced to source. It will be fascinating to discover the routes taken by copper from the Great Orme in ancient times. 

The Great Orme Mines are open to the public from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm - February to  October. This is a commercially operated facility and there will be an entrance fee. If you require more information you can reach Great  Orme Mines on (0)1492 870447. 


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