How Antarctica helps to study the history of the ancient Roman Empire
Recently, the ice of the southernmost continent was greatly loved by historians, because there was found an invaluable and boundless “library” of knowledge about the past of our world. The ice shield of Antarctica has a remarkable property – it never melts. Some coastal zones are affected by the climate, but if you know where to drill, you can find ice of any age that was formed in the specific historical period of our planet.
Previously, information on the composition of such ice was of interest only to climatologists and geologists, as a source of information on geophysical processes in the past of the Earth. With the new scientific methods, the range of extracted data is increasing, and today, for example, historians are very interested in the lead content in the atmosphere in the last 2-3 thousand years, during the existence of already developed civilizations. Specifically – Ancient Rome.
In the Roman mines, the extraction and production of lead and silver went side by side, with the formation of a large amount of emissions into the atmosphere during the remelting of the rock. In the era of the heyday of the empire, it was one of the main “generators” of lead waste in the ancient world. Therefore, when scientists found unusually powerful layers of oxides of this metal in the Antarctic ice, “ancient Rome” was accused of this.
A lot of lead in the air meant that in those years the Roman Empire received a proportional lot of silver, one of the indicators of the state of the economy. This is the period from 27 AD to 180 AD, known as “Pax Romana”, the era of prosperity and stability of the empire. But in the ice there were also opposite traces of a sharp decrease in the concentration of lead, which corresponds to the times of epidemics, wars and other cataclysms. Therefore, research continues.