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Spain's 'Red River' founded Bronze, Copper Ages

By Catholic Online
August 13th, 2010
Catholic Online (

The water that runs through "The Red River," or Rio Tinto, that winds through the Sierra Morena mountains of Andalusia, Spain is a reddish hue. Copper, gold, silver along with other minerals have been mined along the river for more than 5,000 years. The minerals, along with dissolving iron found along the waterway are the cause of its distinctive red color.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Red River is considered the birthplace of at least two major civilizations, the Bronze Age and the Copper Age. The Iberians and Tartessians in the area began mining the river in 3000 BCE, followed by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. The river's mines had been abandoned for hundreds of years until rediscovered and operated by the Spanish government in 1724.

Excavations made by companies from the United Kingdom in the 19th century made the river extremely dangerous due to its high acidity level. Rio Tinto, the multinational company that formerly ran the mines no longer manages the river. By the end of the 20th century it had become one of the world's largest mining companies.

The high acidity rates keep casual tourists away from the Rio Tinto. However, scientists are drawn to the area to study the minerals found there. Extremophile aerobic bacteria in the water provide conditions similar to those found in other areas in the solar system, such as Jupiter's moon Europa.

According to the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, The extreme conditions in the river may be analogous to other locations in the solar system thought to contain liquid water, such as subterranean Mars. NASA scientists have also directly compared the chemistry of the water in which the rocks of Meridiani Planum were deposited in the past with the Río Tinto.

Likewise, Jupiter's moon Europa is theorized to contain an acidic ocean of water underneath its ice surface. Thus the river is of interest to astrobiologists. Researchers say that life in the Rio Tinto - the bacteria feed on iron and sulfide minerals in the river's subsurface rocks - make the likelihood of life on Europa all the more possible.

The river reaches the Gulf of Cadiz at Huelva.

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