Strata: Portraits of Humanity, Episode 2, “Metalla Oiassonis: Roman Mining in Northern Spain”

StrataImage-webWe are pleased to bring you “Metalla Oiassonis:  Roman Mining in Northern Spain,” which is Episode 2 of the new documentary series Strata:  Portraits of Humanity, produced by AntiquityNOW’s partner, Archaeological Legacy Institute.

“Metalla Oiassonis” is a film by Felix Ugarte Elkartea of Spain that introduces us to the complex world of ancient mining that the Romans developed at the ancient port city of Oiasso. Oiasso is situated within the modern city named Irun in Spanish and Gipuzkoa in Basque, which is located in Spain near the French border.  In the western foothills of the Pyrenees next to the Bay of Biscay stands the granite massif called Aiako Harria in Basque and Peñas de Aya in Spanish.  On these slopes one of the chief mining centers of the Iberian Peninsula lasted until modern times.

Strata: Portraits of Humanity is a monthly half-hour video series available online and on select cable channels. Strata is a showcase for unique and diverse stories about the world’s cultural heritage. Stories come from across the globe with segments produced by Archaeological Legacy Institute and dozens of producer and distributor partners around the world.

Click on the image below to view the documentary on The Archaeology Channel and scroll down to see the curriculum developed by AntiquityNOW to accompany “Metalla Oiassonis.”

strata mining

*Produced in 2014 by Archaeological Legacy Institute, Copyright 2014 by Archaeological Legacy Institute

Lesson Plan


  • To introduce students to the concept of cultural heritage and its legacy today
  • To demonstrate to students how ancient people harnessed resources needed for their societies
  • To help students gain an understanding of how human culture was able to evolve from ancient to modern times based upon the effective use of these valuable resources
  • To promote language arts in expressing an original idea
  • To appreciate how art can reflect the emotional composition of the human experience
  • To promote critical thinking by analyzing different sides of a controversial issue
  • To encourage cross-cultural understanding of concepts and ways of thinking

Student Outcomes

  • To grasp the importance of cultural preservation by appreciating what we learn from ancient endeavor and how it applies today
  • To evaluate and think critically about consequential events surrounding cultural endeavor and advancement
  • To think critically about the individual and his/her societal role in a given context and a given time; to compare how ancient and modern societies view the individual in regard to his/her benefit to and status in a particular community
  • To experience how storytelling and art offer unique perspectives of personal experiences
  • To learn how to articulate different sides of a controversy and use persuasion and other rhetorical techniques to argue a position

Project Idea #1

  • Concept- Research the history of mining
  • Materials- Historical journals, textbooks
  • Activity- Make a list of the evidence of ancient mining according to the earliest cultures; how did these cultures use what they mined?


  • Concept- How did Roman ingenuity develop deep-vein mining?
  • Materials- Watch the video, “Metalla Oiassonis” and review information on Roman mining
  • Activity- What were the key elements of deep-vein mining?


  • Concept- Consider how these early cultures mined for ore and minerals
  • Materials- Research articles about the conditions under which early cultures mined
  • Activity- For a Group. Create an ancient culture. Describe the following:
    • What is the terrain and geology of your culture? What would be its present day location?
    • Think about who would be the miners. The artisans or people who make the products. The people who distribute/sell the products. Explain how these various classes of people would differ in lifestyle and their place in society.
    • What products would you create from what was mined?
    • How would you distribute your products to the citizens of your culture?
    • Would you trade your product? Would this be by sea or land? What would be the advantage of having a product to trade?


  • Concept- Geoscientists document earth’s history through field studies and with technologies that reveal the birth and evolution of our planet
  • Materials- View the video Faces of Earth series, Part I: The Beginning by the American Geosciences Institute
  • Activity- What technology in the video interested you the most? Why? Can you think of other ways to use this technology, say, in space exploration?


  • Concept- How has mining evolved as an industry? What were the conditions like for miners and their families?
  • Materials-
  • Activities- 
    • Writing Activity: You are 15 years old and live in a coal mine town in the 1900s. Write about your life as if you were keeping a diary (5-6 entries).
    • What has led to modern mining regulations?
      • Discuss the conditions in the ancient Roman mines
      • Discuss the conditions in mines 100 years ago
      • Compare with today’s conditions in mines


  • Concept- For thousands of years humans have used music to express their feelings about the world in which they lived
  • Materials-
  • Activity- How do these songs portray life in a coal town? What instruments are used? How do these songs convey feelings? What musical techniques or styles do the composers use to tell their stories? What descriptive words come to mind when listening to these two songs? How do these songs make you feel?


  • Concept- Mining has been important to the world’s energy production, but many worry about its effects on the environment
  • Materials-
    • Research articles that explain the position of people who say mining is harmful to the environment
    • Research articles on mining that explain the position taken by energy/coal companies regarding the environment and the benefits of mining
  • Activity- Have a debate, separating your classmates into two teams discussing the environmental hazards of mining v. the benefits of mining.

Web Links:

Content sources:

“Metalla Oiassonis” from Giorgio Studer, Museum of Roman Oiasso, Irun, Spain.  DVD 2011-49.

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