Meta Incognita: A Discourse of Discovery

Paper Abstracts


Methods of Assaying Ore and Their Application in the Frobisher Ventures
By Bernard Allaire

Apart from the complexity of the chemical and metallurgical reactions, the fire assay process is so simple that its basic steps have not changed since the beginnings of metallurgy. Yet, since assays of the Meta Incognita ore had a key role in justifying the Frobisher voyages, it is important to devote attention to the analyses performed in England, which are well evidenced in the primary sources. Between 1577 and 1579 all the precious metal specialists residing in London were consulted on the matter. Not only professionals such as assayers, goldfinders, and precious metal refiners, but also others such as goldsmiths, alchemists and even apothecaries were involved in evaluating the ore brought back by Frobisher. Nonetheless, it took two years to determine with certainty that the rock was worthless.


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