Dippoldiswalde Medieval Silver Mines


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    Medieval silver mine in Dippoldiswalde

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Historical records of ore mining in the Ore Mountains begin in 1168, when silver ores were discovered in the vicinity of today's Freiberg. More than 800 years of mining history of the Ore Mountains are based on this discovery.

Outstanding archaeological remains of underground silver mining from the late 12th and early 13th centuries bearing an exceptional testimony to medieval mining technology in-situ, and of the desertion process of the first mining phase when mining ceased in the 14th century Located beneath the town of Dippoldiswalde, extraordinary well-preserved underground mine workings document an archaeological site that is rare testimony to a medieval mine working that dates back to 1185/1220 and features well-preserved evidence for mining technology of that time.
Colonised already around 1155/60 a first rural settlement was founded and shortly afterwards extensive silver mining took place outside and, in some cases, even within the boundaries of the medieval settlement. The mines within the settlement were abandoned by the early 13th, overbuilt by the structures of the developing town of Dippoldiswalde and forgotten over the centuries. At the beginning of the 21st century they were rediscovered and since then have been investigated extensively by archaeologists.

Evidence of six or more parallel underground vein workings from the 12th/13th century, including numerous shafts, have so far been discovered over an approximately 450 m stretch in an east-west direction. Depths of 20 m were seemingly already being reached around 1190. Archaeological discoveries made so far include clear evidence for medieval technologies of ore extraction. A winding chamber (2.0 x 2.2m) with remains of winder and water catchment ditch was uncovered running to a depth of 22 m in the claim around Obertorplatz. It still had a wooden winder (1.60 m long, 1.60 m wide, 2.0 m high) perched above an inclined blind shaft. 25 fragments of the winder had been preserved, including both horizontal fir beams with the respective beech winder supports, as well as various planks, boards, slats, logs, timber wedges and wooden pegs. On either side of the winder supports were flat planks, which served as tread areas for the winch workers. Two long, narrow planks 0.6 m apart lead vertically down from the winder, presumably to a depth of several metres. Based on two retrieved logs, the winder has been dated to around 1220, making it the oldest of its kind in medieval European mining archaeology to be preserved to such an extent.

Well-preserved relics of shaft planking were found near an open inclined shaft around today’s bus station. It primarily consisted of solid wooden rods around 2 m in length, secured with crossbars at either end. In order to lay the rod planking on a slight slope, the cavity between their lower edge, the horizontal shaft face and the upper edge of the ledge was filled with a pack of low-grade compound, which was interspersed and compacted with organic plant material. Underneath the ledge, the shaft led to a deeper mine, where an exposed mine ladder reached as far as the ledge’s upper rim. Several clearly chipped markings in the face of the decanted shaft had been protected and therefore preserved by the pack. In addition to the aforementioned mine ladder, a further six have so far been retrieved, though some have only been preserved as fragments. A fully preserved mining ladder measuring 5.14 m in length and just 0.24 m in width was recovered in a blind shaft.

Another complex discovery shows that rain and strata water was, in some parts, channelled to a central point via a gutter system, and transported aboveground by winder in leather containers. A simulta neously used and co-ordinated system of technical fittings and installations, located at a depth of 17.0 m, had been preserved. Water was drained using a 25.5-m-long pipe, largely consisting of flattened wooden gutters up to 4.2 m in length with U-shaped cross-section, as well as traverse intercepts, gutters, water tanks and catchment basins hewn into the rock. The pipe, which dates back to around 1220/25, displays a north-south slope of around 0.3 m over the recorded length.

A roughly hewn relief of a human figure has been preserved on the front section of a rocky ridge. A relief depicting a human face was discovered as early as 2005. Given the style and workmanship, this second relief can also be dated back to the first half of the 13th century. Based on current findings, it is so far the only, and therefore the oldest, anthropomorphic depictions known to originate from medieval mining in Europe. Archaeological potential is massive.