Lead is one of the seven metals known from antiquity and it was regarded as the least of them according to the alchemists' classification which ran from gold, the chief of metals, down to lead. The alchemists were, however, working along a blind alley and it was those who concentrated their activities on manufacturing lead who were to realise gold from it. By contrast the British industry, which had the advantage of home supplies of lead, was still struggling with production problems which prevented it from reaching internationally competitive levels. Among the earliest references to lead is a number in the Old Testament, while the hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are said to have been floored with sheets of lead to retain moisture for the plants growing there. Until the mid-eighteenth century the Dutch and Venetian industries were able to dominate the European market.