Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

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Witness
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Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by Witness »

Citing Wikipedia:
Erdstall

An erdstall is a type of tunnel found across Europe. They are of unknown origin but are believed to date from the Middle Ages. A variety of purposes have been theorized, including that they were used as escape routes or hiding places, but the most prominent theory is that they served a religious or spiritual purpose.

Etymology

There are very few historic references – a document from 1449 names the area above the tunnels as "auf den erdstelln". Although the modern term uses "Stall" (stable, shed) it is in fact related to "Stelle" (spot, location – cognate to English "stead") along with "Erde" (soil, ground – cognate to English "earth"). The German "Stollen" (tunnel in mining) has the same origin.

Alternative regional names are "Schratzlloch" (Bavaria), "Zwergloch" and "Grufen" (Austria) that carry the regional names for dwarfs that folk belief has connected them to.

Construction

The erdstall tunnels are very low and narrow – they have a height of 1.0 to 1.4 metres (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 7 in) and a maximum width of about 60 centimetres (24 in). Additionally they feature very tight passages from one tunnel to a lower tunnel called "Schlupf" (slip out) that is too narrow for older or overweight persons – a person needs to crawl under the slip hole, stand up thereby sliding the shoulders through the skin-tight hole, allowing to crawl onto the higher tunnel.

Erdstall tunnels have only one narrow concealed entry point – so there is no second exit tunnel as with an escape tunnel system. Some tunnel systems feature loop tunnels at the end of a tunnel. Most tunnel systems are not longer than 50 metres (160 ft).

Archaeology

There is almost no archaeological material to be found in the tunnels although erdstall tunnels exist in abundance in Central Europe (over 700 in Bavaria alone). This makes it highly unlikely that they were ever used as dwellings, such as a hiding place in times of war.

The archaeological evidence is so slim that even age determination is difficult. Coal from a fire pit at Bad Zell has been dated between 1030 and 1210. Coal from a heading in Höcherlmühle has been dated between the late 10th and mid-11th century. A slip passage at Rot am See has been enhanced with stones to make it narrower with the stone additions dated to between 1034 and 1268. Coal from Trebersdorf was dated 950 to 1050, coal from Kühlried was dated to 950 to 1160. Ceramics found in St. Agatha have been dated to the 12th century which seems to be the latest date of usage.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erdstall

Some pics (not for claustrophobics):

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Long discussion thread on Reddit, if interested: https://old.reddit.com/r/UnresolvedMyst ... _be_found/


Long rambling article in the Spiegel. I'll extract this interesting point:
It is clear, at any rate, that they were built by professionals. They dug the tunnels in a kneeling position, using wedge-shaped tools held with both hands. Every few meters, they chiseled cavities into the walls for their oil lamps. They dug the longer passageways in serpentine form to reduce the pressure from the surrounding earth. Supporting planks were not used.

Around the year 1200, the underground labyrinths were filled in and the entrances blocked with rubble. The rubble contained ceramics clearly attributable to the Gothic period.

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Rob Lister
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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

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Armories?

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shemp
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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by shemp »

Ancient subway tunnels for midget commuters?

Seriously, I'll guess they might have been secret places of worship for the last pagans in an increasingly Christianized Europe.
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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by Abdul Alhazred »

Very interesting, though from the subject line I was expecting something like ... :P

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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by Witness »

A video (in German) about the Erdstall in Vorau. You can skip the first minute.


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ed
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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by ed »

Like to see a map. Where were these things relative to the old city walls/strongholds/churches. Too late to have anything to do with pagans I think.

"Bolt holes" were the first thing I thought of. You say filled in ca. 1200? The Holy Roman Empire was ascendant and Europe was pretty stable.

Maybe they were built for the greater glory of God and then the builders thought that something above ground would be more fitting hence the High Gothic and the emergence of the Gothic Cathedral. You buy that one?
About that stereo

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ed
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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by ed »

What is the slope of these things? Cess pits maybe? No, there'd be residue from fecal matter, bones and such.
Interesting , thanks for sharing
About that stereo

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ed
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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by ed »

Some sort of place for religious retreat? Like monks maybe?

Are they limestone? Could they have started out as natural openings made wider by loony germans?
About that stereo

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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by Witness »

Documentation is scarce, repetitive and mostly awful (and the subject draws a lot of woo :roll: ). My impression is that as they are just holes in the ground without artifacts (which already excludes a lot of possible uses – or perhaps even any use at all) they haven't interested archaeologists apart from local amateurs.
They are also often haphazardly thrown together with other, unrelated, underground dwellings, e. g. troglodytic houses in Turkey or Stone Age tombs in Ireland or Scotland.

This excellent little video (no music! no blather!) by a Viennese photographer shows exactly what it means to roam a typical Erdstall (Kleinzwettl, lower Austria):



Which, in my opinion, also excludes a lot of uses. :mrgreen:

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Rob Lister
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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by Rob Lister »

Witness wrote:
Fri May 15, 2020 8:42 pm
...without artifacts ...
I first thought armory, but religious relics seems like a fair bet. Where do you hide your loot in times of war?

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Re: Erdställe / Schratzenlöcher

Post by Witness »

↑ No need to painfully dig long narrow tunnels for that.

And when archaeologists say "it was for some cult" that often means they don't know.

Another intriguing fact is the scarcity of contemporary mentions, something like two or three for ~ 1000 Erdställe.