Mercury is often found in the native form, and sometimes in very odd places. The metal had been found in some mountain Spanish regions, in wells. Mercury was already known in the Antiquity by Chinese and in India. We can also find mercury in Egyptian graves that date of middles of the second millenium before Christ. The investigators think that the only well-known mercury ore in Antiquity was the cinnabar.

Teofrastus (300 B.C.) described the method used to extract mercury from cinnabar, through the interaction of the metal with cooper and vinegar.

Aristotle used to call mercury, the "liquid silver" and Dioscoride knew this element as "water of silver", in Latin hydrargyrus.