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Medieval and early modern mining in the Northern Black Forest (SW-Germany): An integrated historico-archaeological approach and its synergetic effects

Medieval and early modern mining in the Northern Black Forest (SW-Germany): An integrated historico-archaeological approach and its synergetic effects

By Ewe Meyerdirks

Medieval Europe Paris 2007, 4th International Congress of Medieval and Modern Archaeology (2007)

Abstract: Mining in the Northern Black Forest is studied as part of a doctoral thesis investigating all aspects of nonferrous mining and smelting in the former duchy of Württemberg from its beginnings until AD 1700. At this time, Württemberg’s mines were concentrated in the Northern Black Forest, where silver and copper veins cluster around Neubulach, below the Königswart and in the district of Dornstetten-Freudenstadt.

The thesis follows a truly interdisciplinary approach integrating written records, surface remains and underground workings. Since all three categories of evidence have suffered severe losses, their simultaneous consideration during every step of analysis and investigation enables powerful symbiotic effects and unlocks otherwise hidden information. Thus, a far more complete and comprehensive understanding of medieval and early modern mining and its development is achieved.

At Neubulach, extensive mining activities took place during the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, written evidence is scarce and most of the surface remains have been destroyed during the 20th century, but the ‘old workings’ are well documented in 16th and 18th century mining records and maps; and the underground workings accessible today show that the veins have been exploited to a depth of at least 100 m below surface prior to AD 1550. The medieval town centre of Neubulach is situated on the outcrops of the ore-bearing veins and represents a very good example for a small medieval mining town.

Although argentifodinae near Dornstetten are mentioned in AD 1267 and 1271, medieval exploitation remained limited and some of the most important veins remained untouched until the dukes of Württemberg took an active interest in mining from the 1550s onwards. The district developed and rapidly became the most important mining area in the Northern Black Forest, and in 1599, the Renaissance town of Freudenstadt with its spacious and regular layout was founded above the most important deposits. Although the mines mostly worked in deficit, about a ton of silver was produced which allowed the issuing of the socalled Christophstaler, coins exclusively minted from silver that came from the mines near Dornstetten and Freudenstadt.

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