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THE BUS FROM HUELVA TO THE VILLAGE of Minas de Riotinto is driven by Delgado’s father, one of the few men in his family who didn’t work in the mines.
It takes us through workaday of whitewashed and tiled buildings with wrought-iron balconies and terracotta roofs.
“What my grandfather did with me was very common,” he says.
“It was a way to dignify their labor.” Delgado figures that if he were born even five years earlier, he might have ended up working in the mines himself.
Riotinto is part of the Iberian Pyrite Belt, a mineral deposit that stretches from Spain into Portugal.
It is one of the largest known mining complexes in the ancient world.
“It has been called the geologist’s paradise because at almost no other place on the earth has nature exposed in one spot such richness and variety of minerals.” Now that the industry is gone (for the time being, at least), Delgado and other researchers are studying Riotinto and some neighboring sites to answer fundamental questions about how metals were extracted and processed in the ancient world.
Delgado contends this is solely because of higher demand; Schattner disagrees.
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AQUILINO DELGADO DOMÍNGUEZ UNLOCKS the ornamental metal door and waves me inside the warehouse of the Riotinto Mining Museum in southwestern Spain.
Local folklore places King Solomon’s mines at Riotinto, though a more factual history has been more difficult to write.
“Its birth is shrouded in the mists of antiquity,” wrote William Giles Nash, a Rio Tinto Company employee, in 1904.