Climbing treeA number of climbing trees have been found in the Iron Age mine. These would have been used by the miners to climb large distances quickly. They are made of tree trunks with the bark removed; grooves cut into the sides of the trunks served as foot holds. Climbing trees are easier to handle and more stable than ladders. Unlike stairs, which could be used by several people at the same time and formed important connections between the different areas of the mine, climbing trees were probably used at the rock face in order to be able to mine sections of rock at different heights.
Children in the mines Examinations of childrens skeletons found at the Hallstatt burial site show that they too carried out heavy physical work. Signs of extreme physical exertion have been identified in the skeletons of children aged eight years and older. However, it takes a significant period of time for such physical changes to occur in the body, so it can be assumed that children of a much younger age worked in the mines.
It is possible that the youngest children were responsible for making sure the wood chips were burning to provide light in the mines. These wood chips would have had to have been turned frequently in order for them to burn evenly. From the age of five years children would have been given the physically strenuous task of transporting salt and rock. A babys hat dating back to the Hallstatt Period indicates that even children of a very young age probably also spent time in the mines.
Unclear traces of scrapingAlmost half of all the broken pick handles dating back to the Hallstatt Period contain marks indicating they were used for scraping. This scraping movement must have been carried out very often. Though it is still unclear precisely what these tools were used for, research indicates that it is unlikely to have been to shape timber, cut meat or split logs to provide wood chips for burning.
Food in the mineRemains of food and cooking utensils show that miners also ate underground. Wooden dishes found in the mine probably served as plates. The inside of these dishes are often scratched, indicating that the miners probably scraped the dishes with their fingers when eating.
Ritschert staple food of the minersTests on food remains and excrement found in the mine have revealed that the miners main food was Ritschert, a porridge mixture containing barley, millet, broad beans and low-quality meat with a lot of rind. A similar dish of the same name is still served today in many regions of the Eastern Alps. Researchers have still not been able to determine the exact ingredients contained in prehistoric Ritschert. Scratches on the inside of the wooden dishes used by miners indicate that it was probably quite thick. It is likely that it was cooked over a fire in the pit using a vessel with a cone-shaped neck.
Pit fireLarge pieces of wood charcoal indicate that large fires were lit in the mines. These would have provided light and been used to cook food. Moreover, by warming the air below ground they would have stimulated the natural flow of fresh air into the mine.
FoodExcrement found in the mine shows that during the Hallstatt Period miners ate predominantly vegetable matter. Analyses have shown that the excrement contains millet, emmer wheat, barley, broad beans, single-corn wheat, proso millet, foxtail millet, field beans and a range of fruits. Small boxes with remains of casein, the main component of cheese, have also been found as well as hazelnut shells.
Textile findsThere are several different ways that textiles from the Hallstatt Period came to be in the mines. Some may have come from work clothing worn by the miners during their shifts. Others, however, are too intricate for work clothing. It is likely that these were worn above ground and, once they were no longer needed, torn into strips and sent down into the mines. There they could have been used for cleaning, storage, sieving and many other purposes. Textiles from the Hallstatt Period are of particular interest to researchers as there were only few settlements built in areas of moorland during this time. With burial habits also changing throughout Europe during this period, there are fewer finds of organic material from the Hallstatt Period than from the periods before. Comparing the very well-preserved finds from the Hallstatt mines with the less well-preserved finds from nearby the burial site makes it possible to draw important conclusions.
Lighting tapersDuring the Hallstatt Period a combination of fires, reflective stones and burning lighting tapers were used to provide light underground. The lighting tapers used were different in both design and material from those employed during the Bronze Age. The spruce and fir wood tapers are now thin in section, but up to 5 cm wide. They are found in large numbers, but always burnt down, so that their original length has not been established yet. No mountings for the tapers have been discovered so far. They may have been held and minded by children.
PickAlthough well aware of iron and its uses, the miners in Hallstatt continued to use bronze picks during the Stone Age. This tools beechwood handle had a clubbed head and a short, thick stem. It was clearly tapered in the top third. This feature not only protected the valuable metal tip, but also reduced wrist contusion.
The special alloy used for the pick has a higher percentage of tin (10% or more) than was commonly used at the time, which makes the pick considerably harder, but also quite brittle. As a consequence, the tips of the picks broke off fairly often.The consequence of this was that the top of the pick often broke off and had to be replaced.
Salt heartsDuring the Hallstatt Period salt was mined from the rock in the form of salt bars by cutting heart-shaped grooves into the rock face. Researchers are still unsure precisely how the salt bars were then extracted from the rock. A number of these heart-shaped grooves and salt bars have been found. Both vary greatly in size.
ShoesSeveral shoes have been found in the mine. Four of the six shoes found correspond to European sizes 31/32 and 34/35 (US sizes 13/13.5 and 2/3), so it was likely that they were worn by children or small women. Wear on the shoes is particularly apparent around the foot arches, which is consistent with the action of climbing ladders and steps.
Body liceTextiles from the mine in Hallstatt have been found to contain the hard-wearing shells of body lice eggs (nits). As well as causing itching, body lice can transmit a number of infectious diseases.
CarryingExaminations of female skeletons from the Hallstatt Period burial site have revealed that they often carried heavy loads on one shoulder. There are two possible explanations for this either women carried the loads alone using a shoulder strap, or two women transported the salt together using a wooden pole carried on their shoulders. However, only few wooden poles and straps made of leather or fur have been found which could have been used for this purpose.
FecesExcrement has been found in almost all areas of the Hallstatt mines, indicating that there was probably no specific place where miners could relieve themselves. Very little excrement from the preceding Bronze Age has been found. This pattern holds true for food remains, so it is likely that the areas of mining activity and the waste disposal strategies used in the mine changed over the course of time. Feces from the Hallstatt Period contain intestinal parasites which would have caused unpleasant symptoms such as stomach pain, colic, diarrhea and constipation.