Cavers find pristine mineshaft frozen in time for 200 years
Cavers have discovered the best-preserved cobalt mineshaft in the United Kingdom that has remained undisturbed since the early 19th century, offering a rare look into the lives of miners working during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Tools, personal items and inscriptions all remain in near-pristine condition due to the low-oxygen environment in the mine, which has been compared to a “time capsule” by British archaeologists. The mine was discovered by members of Derbyshire Caving Club on a site at Alderley Edge, Cheshire, which has been mined since prehistoric times and is now owned by the UK heritage conservation charity The National Trust.
Cavers have been allowed to explore the site since the 1970s, although the discovery of a mineshaft in such condition is extremely rare. Ed Coghlan states that, “Many mines have been filled with debris over the years and are accessible in one form or another by heavy rains washing them into the sand”. The last day when mine workers shut down their activities is a fascinating window into the past.
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Cavers items recovered included clay pipes, leather shoes, a metal button from a jacket, mining and crockery machinery. which is around the time it is believed that the mine was abandoned. The largest of all the found objects was a windlass, a device used to move large weights or quantities of raw materials.The abandonment of a vital piece of machinery suggests that the miners were instructed to cease operations abruptly, possibly because the cobalt had run out.
In the 19th century, cobalt was mainly used to make blue pigments for pottery, glass, jewelry, and paint. Prior to the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted from 1803–1815, cobalt was mainly imported from continental Europe to the UK, where resources were abundant. Imports ceased after the conflict, prompting domestic cobalt operations to boom in Britain, although the industry collapsed soon after imports resumed.
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