Depiction of Gans and Hariot in 1585 workshop.
Depiction of Gans and Hariot in 1585 workshop.

National Park Service

Quick Facts

Metallurgist at Roanoke Island

Joachim Gans, a Czech mineralist, traveled to Roanoke Island in 1585 to test local minerals and prospect for gold, silver, copper, and iron. Partnering with Thomas Hariot, the two constructed a 10’ by 10’ mineral laboratory from which to run their experiments. Archaeologists believe that the site of the Hariot-Gans laboratory was adjacent to the earthen fort constructed in 1585, and that the fort may have been constructed primarily to defend the workshop.

While Hariot wrote in his “Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia” that Gans had found iron deposits suitable for metalworking, he was hesitant to make claims of the discovery of other precious metals. However, in the 1990s, when archaeologists uncovered the site of the mineral laboratory, they discovered traces of copper from which silver was likely extracted. This discovery led many to believe that Gans had been more successful in mineralogy than Hariot’s contemporary records indicated.