The strange case of the earliest silver extraction by European colonists in the New World

A. M. Thibodeau, D. J. Killick, J. Ruiz, J. T. Chesley, K. Deagan, J. M. Cruxent, W. Lyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


La Isabela, the first European town in the New World, was established in 1494 by the second expedition of Christopher Columbus but was abandoned by 1498. The main motive for settlement was to find and exploit deposits of precious metals. Archaeological evidence of silver extraction at La Isabela seemed to indicate that the expedition had located and tested deposits of silver-bearing lead ore in the Caribbean. Lead isotope analysis refutes this hypothesis but provides new evidence of the desperation of the inhabitants of La Isabela just before its abandonment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3663-3666
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 27 2007



  • Archaeological science
  • Historical metallurgy
  • La Isabela
  • Lead isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this