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|Classification:||Roman tufa mine|
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The tufa is volcanic rock, lava which erupted from the Laacher See volcanoe, some 13,000 years ago. The lava was thrown up into the air, torn into small pieces which became solid bt where still hot. A huge cloud of volcanic gases like carbon dioxide, steam and others mixed with hot, almost molten rock dust, was blown by the wind hundreds of kilometers far. But when the eruption collapsed, so did the cloud, and formed a glowing avalanche at the foot of the volcanoe. The dust covered anything living, trees, animals, and it covered the original landscape. The result was resembling the surface of the moon.
The small pieces of rock were still hot enough to melt together and form rock instead of ash. Because of the high content of gases, a thick layer of porous rock was formed. Later it was covered by layers of lava, which simply flowed out of the volcanoe, then cooled and formed massive basaltic rocks. To mine the tufa the romans had to go underground.
The tufa quarries at Meurin are called Römerbergwerk (Roman Mines) and that's not just a name. The Romans were mining tufa here some 2,000 years ago. They used this volcanic tufa, which they obviously already knew from their volcanic home country Italy, for various purposes. It was located below a layer of hard basaltic rocks, so they had to bild a shaft through this layer to reach the tufa. Here they started to brake loose huge blocks from the wall thus continually widening the underground cavern. To keep it stable they used the simple room and pillar nethod and left huge pillars to stabilize the ceiling. The result was a labyrinth of connected passages.
The rock was lifted to the surface through the shafts, using wooden cranes which were erected beneath the holes on the surface. The museum has one such crane which was reconstrtucted by archaeologists. The miners entered and left the mine through other shafts with staircases cut into the rock. One of those staircases is still visible.
The rock was removed using a simple but time consuming technique. The wall was irregular and the always removed rock from edges. To get the rock off the wall, the top of the rock was first removed, by cutting a horizontal furrow into the rather soft rock with an ax or pick. Then they cut holes into the rock, one above the other, where they hammered wedges into the rock. At last this caused a vertical crack deep into the rock. If this was done in a right angle from both sides of the edge, the rock between the two cracks had an almost rectangular shape. With the furrow on top, the two joining crack on the far side, the just made the rock tumble over by continually hammering the wedges into the cracks.
The mine was used for a long time, but when the Romans left it was abandoned and forgotten. Finally even the shafts were filled in and nothing remembered of the ancient mine. In the mid 20th century the layer of basaltic rocks on top was quarried with modern machines. The remains of this time can still be seen, old cranes and conveyor belts are still standing at the parking lot. This quarrying removed the rocks forming the ceiling of the ancient mine. When the heavy machines stared to fall into holes of the collapsing Roman mine the quarrying had to be abandoned. Finally the origin of those holes was explored and then excavated by archaeologists.
Today the whole area of the mine is covered by a huge building. It was erected to protect the remains of the mine. As the covering rock was removed the mine is now open and was subject to weathering, so it was necessary to protect it. The huge bridge across the hangar like hall allows an eagle eye view on a mine, which is actually quite strange. It is possible to walk through the mine itself, some parst are still covered by a thin ceiling. A movie with Latin speaking Romans shows two miners removing a rock from a wall. It is shown in one of the dark parts of the mine.
|Trassbergwerk Meurin Gallery|