The Arsenic Harvest
Mixed media on 300g/m² Bockingford paper
Image size: 28.5cm x 21cm
The Levant Mine labyrinths were a collection point for arsenic which was a by-product of the tin ore smelting process. These labyrinths became packed full of white arsenic powder which was ‘harvested’ by adults and children alike scraping it from the chamber walls. The arsenic powder was moved by hand using barrows and spades. Because of the extreme toxicity, workers often plugged their noses to reduce inhalation. ‘The Arsenic Harvest’ (Level 2 decipher) shows the smelting process of tin ore. We see the chimney venting out sulphurous smoke and fumes to the right. The cottages also exude smoke from their chimneys adding to the pollution in the air. The white areas depict the arsenic powder as it lies in the chambers and on the ground. As I reached the end of this decipher, I noticed the image of a man’s head to the left, set against the brown background. There was minimal mark making from me in this area. The man has his eyes closed and has what appears to be a plug up against his nose. I interpret this as an historic ‘echo’ of a worker in the arsenic labyrinths.