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The Hallstatt-Dachstein alpine landscape, part of the Salzkammergut, and thus of the Eastern Alps, is one of visual drama with huge mountains rising abruptly form narrow valleys. Its prosperity since medieval times has been based on salt mining, focused on the town of Hallstatt, a name meaning salt settlement that testifies to its primary function.
Systematic salt production was being carried out in the region as early as the Middle Bronze Age, (the late 2nd millennium BC), when natural brine was captured in vessels and evaporated. Underground mining for salt began at the end of the late Bronze Age and resumed in the 8th Century BC when archaeological evidence shows a flourishing, stratified and highly organised Iron Age society with wide trade links across Europe and now known as the Hallstatt Culture.
Salt mining continued in Roman times and was then revived in the 14th Century. The large amounts of timber needed for the mines and for evaporating the salt where extracted from the extensive upland forests, which since the 16th Century were controlled and managed directly by the Austrian Crown.
The Town of Hallstatt was re-built in late Baroque style after a fire in 1750 destroyed the timber buildings.
The beauty of the alpine landscape, with its higher pastures used for the summer grazing of sheep and cattle since prehistoric times as part of the process of transhumance, which still today gives the valley communities rights of access to specific grazing areas, was discovered in the early 19th Century by writers, such as Adalbert Stifler, novelist, and the dramatic poet Franz Grillparzer, and most of the leading paintings of the Biedermeier school. They were in turn followed by tourists and this led to the development of hotels and brine baths for visitors.
The landscape is exceptional as a complex of great scientific interest and immense natural power that has played a vital role in human history reflected in the impact of farmer-miners over millennia, in the way mining has transformed the interior of the mountain and through the artists and writers that conveyed its harmony and beauty.
How This Relates to Rome:
The Germanic name hall of several settlements refers to the region’s numerous salt mine, which centered at the mining town of Hallstatt. These operation were continued by the Romans, after the area had been incorporated into the Noricum province in 15 BC.
A Roman settlement and salt evaporation pond at Hallstatt is documented about AD 100, affected by several Germanic invasions after the Marcomannic Wars. The province was finally evacuated at the behest of the Italian king Odoacer in AD 488.
We hope you enjoyed today’s journey. Hopefully you’ll join us again soon to check out another World Heritage Site, or just to see where we’ll be off to.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!