Lead has been commonly used for thousands of years because it is widespread, easy to extract and easy to work with. It is highly malleable as well as easy to smelt. Metallic lead beads dating back to 6400 BCE have been found in Çatalhöyük in modern-day Turkey. In the early Bronze Age, lead was used with antimony and arsenic.
The largest preindustrial producer of lead was the Roman economy, with an estimated annual output of 80,000 tonnes, which was typically won as a by-product of extensive silver smelting. Roman mining activities occurred in Central Europe, Roman Britain, the Balkans, Greece, Asia Minor and Hispania which alone accounted for 40% of world production.
Roman lead pipes often bore the insignia of Roman emperors (see Roman lead pipe inscriptions). Lead plumbing in the Latin West may have been continued beyond the age of Theoderic the Great into the medieval period. Many Roman "pigs" (ingots) of lead figure in Derbyshire lead mining history and in the history of the industry in other English centers. The Romans also used lead in molten form to secure iron pins that held together large limestone blocks in certain monumental buildings. In alchemy, lead was thought to be the oldest metal and was associated with the planet Saturn. Alchemists accordingly used Saturn's symbol (the scythe, ♄) to refer to lead.
Up to the 17th century, tin was often not distinguished from lead: lead was called plumbum nigrum (literally, "black lead"), while tin was called plumbum candidum (literally, "bright lead"). Their inherence through history can also be seen in other languages: the word "olovo" means lead in Czech, but in Russian it ("олово") means tin. Lead's symbol Pb is an abbreviation of its Latin name plumbum for soft metals; the English words "plumbing", "plumber", "plumb", and "plumb-bob" also derive from this Latin root.
Lead production in the US commenced as early as the late 1600s by Indians in the The Southeast Missouri Lead District, commonly called the Lead Belt, is a lead mining district in the southeastern part of Missouri. Significant among Missouri's lead mining concerns in the district was the Desloge Family and Desloge Consolidated Lead Company in Desloge, Missouri and Bonne Terre - having been active in lead trading, mining and smelting from 1823 in Potosi to 1929.
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