HNW - Bronze Age cloth in the salt mine

Wendy Robertson wcrobert at blue.weeg.uiowa.edu
Wed Oct 1 12:11:35 PDT 1997


I am guessing Tamar's reference to the cloth in the saltmine ("The
altarpiece itself is all original; it was preserved during WWII by being
hidden in the famous salt mine (the one that has a cathedral carved of salt
in it, and where some bronze age cloth was found).) is to the salt mines at
Hallstatt and Hallein.  Most of the cloth found is twill (and being woven,
is out of scope for this list).  If you are interested in this, a nice
summary of the finds can be found in E.J.W. Barber's Prehistoric Textiles :
the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages (p.186-95).

Barber states:
"The Hallstatt culture at this time extended through much of Austria and
Switzerland, and into eastern France, southern Germany, and Hungary.  In
the succeeding period, a further developed form, the La Tene culture,
spread rapidly across Europe to Spain and Britain....

"The cloths that we will be looking at come largely from two sites, the
salt mines at Hallstatt and those at nearby Hallein (hall- is a word stem
for "salt"), high in the mountains above Salzburg ("salt city"). During the
Late Bronze and Early Iron Age, a group of apparently Indo-European miners,
who must have come into the area looking for metal ores, dug shafts deep
into the mountains to mine the vast salt deposits as salt rock.  They lit
their way with torches made of wooden splints, dropping all manner of burnt
up splint stubs, broken tools, and used up rags in the mineshafts.
Eventually they learned to flush out the salt as brine, as we do today,
rather than laboriously breaking up the rock with picks and hauling it out
of the mountain in backpacks. The old shafts eventually filled in, as the
salt mass repeatedly recrystalized in local areas.  As modern tunnels are
built, the workers occasionally come upon pockets of ancient debris in the
crystal mass, pockets that they call Heidengebirge or "heathen rock". Over
the last few centuries, more than 100 pieces of ancient cloth have been
salvaged this way (many more were discarded), dating loosely from before
1000 to perhaps as late as 400 B.C.  Thus the textiles from the site of
Hallstatt itself are sometimes rather older than the classic Hallstatt
culture; yet they are all of the same type."

At 02:12 PM 10/1/97 -0400, RMorrisson at aol.com said:
>Greetings from Myfanwy!
>BTW -- tell me more about this Bronze Age cloth in the salt mine.... :-)
>Lady Myfanwy ferch Rhiannon
>mka Ruth Morrisson
>RMorrisson at aol.com

Wendy Robertson
mailto:wcrobert at blue.weeg.uiowa.edu
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