Ancient Roman gold mining site of Las Médulas, León, Spain
© DEEPOL by plainpicture/David Santiago Garci
Roman treasure. The largest gold mine of the Roman empire
This landscape might look natural, but you may be surprised to learn that’s not entirely the case. Welcome to Las Médulas Cultural Park, in León, Spain - an ancient Roman gold mining site which was once the Empire’s largest open-air mine. Romans started exploiting the site during the first century and continued doing so for over 150 years. By removing more than 500 million cubic metres of earth, the landscape was therefore transformed forever.
To extract the gold a complex system of tunnels were dug within the hills before running water was poured in to help fragment the rock. It is estimated that more than 20,000 people worked on this endeavour. The exploitation was eventually abandoned sometime during the third century, and from that moment nature began to recover what was its own.
Oak trees and holm oaks popped up once again, while hundreds of chestnuts trees were also planted. Wildlife includes roe deer, wildcats and boars, among many others. This place, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, is especially amazing at sunset, when the light enhances the warm hues of the earth.