The area has been mined for its mineral resources since prehistory. Mining on a scale we might recognise today began in the 16th century when Elizabeth I invited a group of German miners to work a small group of seams in, what is today, the National Park. In particular Elizabeth I was interested in copper. Her 'Mines Royal' provided this important mineral to a variety of emerging industries in a growing Empire copper for ordnance, coinage and the navy all came from Coniston.
Detailed historic accounts of the Elizabethan miners exist - we know who they were, where they worked and what they were paid, but there has been no archaeological investigation of the mining sites themselves, some of which have very well preserved Elizabethan building remains.
Time Team had three days, in what turned out to be terrible weather conditions, to reveal the origins of modern mining. The key aim was to discover a date and use for buildings surviving at a site called 'Back Strings'. The normal Time Team methods proved pretty unreliable. John's geophysical survey equipment had real trouble as a result of the high metal content in the geology of the area, not to mention getting the equipment to such a remote area. However, the site held so much promise. Not only were the team tasked with investigating mining buildings, but also the mines themselves were up for grabs along with the possible location of a 'stamp mill' - an Elizabethan contraption used for breaking up ore.
Luckily Time Team had a lot of help from the National Park and the local mining history group, whose hard work over the years had led to many of rare archaeological sites being identified and the mine workings cleared and mapped... The logistics of getting cast and crew to this beautiful but treacherous landscape would prove to be more challenging than any of us could have imagined...