Tin mining started in Cornwall around 2000 B.C. In Roman times, the richest areas for finding tin were in, using present day terminology, the Cambourne-Redruth area, the Lands End peninsula, around St. Agnus and St. Austell, the southern side of Bodmin Moor, and from Kit Hill to Hingston Down. The method used to mine the tin was known as streaming - extraction was carried out by smelting which was a seasonal activity, taking place during quiet periods in the farming year.
Production of reasonably pure tin ingots was carried out on a more or less casual basis, but marketing of the metal needed to be much more organised. Designated sites were used for the marketing which took place at fixed times in the calendar.
It has been suggested that the Phoenicians organised the early exportation of tin from Cornwall, but this is not universally accepted. Although it is uncertain as to whether or not there was a connection between St Michael’s Mount and the Phoenicians, in 1969 skin divers found a stone bowl with handles in Mount Bay which was confirmed to be Phoenician by the British Museum.
It is said that the Carthaginian Admiral Himilco4 developed the tin industry in north western Europe in the 6th Century B.C. When the mine at Morbihan on the Gallic tip of Amorica was exhausted, Himilco was one of the first southern Europeans to establish a foothold in Cornwall, but after a few years the mines were handed back to the Celts and the Carthaginians returned to Cadiz.
It has been suggested that the demand for tin may have been one reason behind the Roman invasion of Britain.