Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/247

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work up the material in such a way as to eliminate the light sands that are mixed with oxide of tin, till only twenty-five or thirty-five per cent of foreign matter is left. The mineral thus enriched is melted in little brick furnaces, with the aid of a bellows of bamboo, which is worked by a coolie as if it were a syringe. The white metal as it runs out is cast into the well-known cubic ingots with one side flaring over the edges, so as to give them a pair of ears by which they can be more easily handled. A great deal of metal is certainly wasted in this process; and a second washing of the refuse would probably be very remunerative. The Chinese and Malays call this lost metal young, tin, which is re-turned to the earth to ripen, because it is not yet old enough to stay in their primitive machines. It is only now, after no one can tell how many centuries since tin has been known and worked in the peninsula, that a rational system of operating the mines is about to be adopted.

The use of tin dates from extreme antiquity. Homer mentions it as kassiteros, in the descriptions of the arms of his heroes. Herodotus speaks of the British Islands as the kassiterides. The Phoenicians obtained the tin which they furnished to the ancient world chiefly from those islands, but partly also from Gaul and the Iberian Peninsula. Before the Phœnicians and the Greeks, PSM V37 D247 Native chinese tin stamping mill on the kuantan malacca.jpgFig. 2.—Native Chinese Tin-stamping Mill on the Kuantan, Malacca. however, the Chaldeans knew this metal under the name of kastira. The most ancient document in which a mention of it has been found is probably a hymn to the fire, which M. Oppert has translated from the Accadian language, a tongue the knowledge of which has been recently revived from cuneiform documents. Tin was designated in them, five thousand years ago, as anaku. The biblical text in the Book of Numbers, in which Moses names tin in the enumeration of the metals, is therefore comparatively modern, for it is of fifteen hundred years later date than the hymn to the fire. Even more definite than these texts is an Egyptian statuette in bronze (an alloy of tin) of the age of the pyramids, or 3600 years b. c.