51 pages • 1 hour readMark Kurlansky
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During the Middle Ages, salt mining spread across Bavaria and Austria. Many different groups were often trying to extract from the same mines, which caused tension. Salzburg and the Bavaria fought for centuries over a mine near Hallein. The opposing entities were located on opposite sides of Durnberg Mountain. The wealth to be gained from salt was often greater than that of gold, and the issue was not settled until 1829.
As early as 1268, there was a new technique for mining rock salt. After digging out a vein of rock salt, water was pumped in through a tube. The water turned to brine, which could then be funneled out with another tube. This arrangement was eventually known as creating a “sinkwerk” (164).
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The Hapsburg family controlled the salt mines of central Europe for much of the 12th century. In 1273, a Hapsburg, Rudolph I, became the king of Germany. He began establishing trade by reaching out to other countries, or by placing them under his rule, which was the case with Hungary.
Salt miners were often prisoners of war who mined as part of their slavery. Free men begin working as miners in the 14th century, and in the 16th century, the mines were greatly expanded, with the addition of horse-and-pulley systems.
By Mark Kurlansky