Lighting up the mines

THIS POSTCARD from the beginning of the 20th century proves how strong the mining tradition and the self-confidence of the town of Banská Štiavnica was. It was published by the Štiavnica postcard publisher Joerges. It is probably a replica of an original artwork dating back to the 19th century.Let us look more closely at the motif and remind ourselves of the town’s mining history.

THIS POSTCARD from the beginning of the 20th century proves how strong the mining tradition and the self-confidence of the town of Banská Štiavnica was. It was published by the Štiavnica postcard publisher Joerges. It is probably a replica of an original artwork dating back to the 19th century.
Let us look more closely at the motif and remind ourselves of the town’s mining history.

In the coat of arms, there are two crossed hammers which symbolise this very demanding profession. One of them is two-sided, a so-called striking hammer, and the head of the other features a pointed tip. This tip was slid into a natural or prepared rift in the rock and then hit with the striking hammer. Rock was extracted and broken up in this way for many centuries.

The miner is holding a security lamp in his hand. But it took a long time before such lights began to be used. In the past, in places such as ancient Hispania (today called the Iberian Peninsula), some work was done in complete darkness in the mines. Later, miners made lamps using open flames as a light source. This became a major problem when the industry switched from surface to underground mining. In the depths of the earth, workers were exposed to more explosive gases than ever before.
Although many accidents were caused by faults with the lamps themselves, miners could foresee explosions thanks to light from the flames.

In English mines, for example, there used to be one man whose only task was to watch the light of a candle; if he saw the flame become light-blue to bluish-grey and make a so-called aureole around the wick, he knew it was dangerous. This colour signalled the presence of the explosive gas methane.

Thus, the introduction of candles was an important shift towards safer working conditions in mines.

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