Johann F. Schatteiner/Thomas Stöllner:
"Men in Salt - Mining Casualties"
Accidents in Dürrnberg Salt Production
In Hallein, 15 km to the south of Salzburg, salt was mined as early as prehistoric times by the Celts. From the 6th century B.C. onwards, rock salt was produced by underground dry mining, with underground workings up to a depth of 220 m. Their investigation is today one of the main areas of study of the mining archaeology department at the German Mining Museum in Bochum. After the decline of the late Celtic oppida civilisation and a suspension of mining in this area for about a thousand years, salt production was resumed in the 12th century. Until recently, salt was produced by the leaching technique developed by monks involving bucket conveyors and water. The large saltern on Perner Island in Hallein was put into operation with one pan in 1860, but only a few years later four pans were available for salt production. The thermocompression system installed in 1955 permitted an annual output of 71,000 t of industrial salt. However, it became increasingly difficult to sell this salt during the 1980s and finally salt mining at Dürrnberg was wound up on 31 July 1989.
Due to exposed working conditions underground, accidents occurred time and again in the history of salt mining at Dürrnberg. Combined with aggravated external conditions, some of them were mining disasters with numerous fatalities. In the late 16th and early 17th century, miners who had perished in Celtic times were discovered preserved in the salt. The circumstances of their death are discussed with the aid of contemporary source texts and new findings of mining archaeology. Accidents involving Dürrnberg miners between the 15th and 20th centuries are analysed on the basis of partly preserved plaques and written sources.