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A beautifully educated crystal seems to be something almost magical. Its transparent regular form immediately raises suspicion about the intentionality of the “creator”. However, the mystery has been revealed long time ago. Each mineral, including halite, is a crystal.

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A beautifully educated crystal seems to be something almost magical. Its transparent regular form immediately raises suspicion about the intentionality of the “creator”. However, the mystery has been revealed long time ago. Each mineral, including halite, is a crystal. The crystalline structure is the result of an ordered arrangement of atoms subjected to the powers of the forces affecting them. The size of the crystal is a reproduction of its elemental structure. The specific natural conditions in the natural voids, created in the mine, meant that what is hidden in a small grain of table salt took on the size of an impressive single crystal.


Elaborated by Witold Kuc (Kraków Salt Works Museum in Wieliczka), © all rights reserved

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Kraków Saltworks deposits

Salt exploitation history is connected in Poland, with the Miocen marine deposits filling the Pre-Carpathian basin. The salt series thickness varies from 250 m in Wieliczka up to 1500 m close to Wojnicz. It is built of five cyclothems, that is sedimentation cycles, beginning from aggregated  and argillaceous rocks (sandstones, mudstones, claystone), argillo-calcerous and anhydrite claystone to anhydrites and halites.

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Salt exploitation history is connected in Poland, with the Miocen marine deposits filling the Pre-Carpathian basin. The salt series thickness varies from 250 m in Wieliczka up to 1500 m close to Wojnicz. It is built of five cyclothems, that is sedimentation cycles, beginning from aggregated  and argillaceous rocks (sandstones, mudstones, claystone), argillo-calcerous and anhydrite claystone to anhydrites and halites. The Carpathian overthrust caused strong folding of the salt series and formed local concentrations of salt of industrial value. The Miocen halite deposits occure in the Carpathian forground, between Wieliczka (West) and Tarnów (East). The historical sources  of the 11th and the 13th centuries mention bestowments and privileges of salt  mining. The documents certify that salt exploitation has been continued in ”Wieliczka” and  ”Bochnia” salt mines for over 700 years. They belonged to the Kraków Salt Mines, that together with the Russian Salt Mines (Kałusz, Tyrawa Solna, Jasienica, Starasól, Stebnik, Modrycz, Solec, Sołotwina and Truskawiec) constituted the Royal Salt Mines. The salt mines brought profits for local people, tenants and the king. Archaeological investigations provide more and more proofs confirming salt exploitation in the area. About 3500 years BC. Bochnia area was already known as a place where salt was obtained by means of an evaporation method. Ancient coins dating back to the Emperor Hadrian times as well as chert and flint tools were found on slag heaps of the Russian Salt Mines.  Due to development of the bore-hole method in salt mining, wider exploitation of the Zechstein salt deposits, the old salt mines began to loose their importance. Currently they function mainly as tourist attractions and sanitariums. In Bochnia, the lowest levels (from the XVI to the X) have been backfilled and the historical part (from the level I to IX) has been adapted for touristic purposes. The ”Wieliczka” salt mine reaches the depth of 327 m. It has 9 levels and about 300 km of excavations (galleries, inclined drifts, exploitation chambers, salt lakes, shafts and pits). Most of them are open for tourists. 

Elaborated by the Geological Museum at the Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection of the AGH University of Science and Technology, © all rights reserved

See also:
Halite with organic inclusions
Halite crystals
Halite crystals from Groty Kryształowe [Crystal Caves]
Halite crystals on the watering can

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Organic formula

Nature, seemingly unpredictable, surprises us with its regularity, rhythm, and sometimes even the creation of geometric forms. Perfect ripples on the water, geese flying in a V-formation, mushrooms forming a circle in the forest - they arouse admiration, but the surprise at their discovery is greater. This impression results from the association of the sense of order being a property belonging solely to the human mind, and being the result of its production, in contrast to the irregularity which characterises the living world. However, this could not be more wrong.

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Nature, seemingly unpredictable, surprises us with its regularity, rhythm, and sometimes even the creation of geometric forms. Perfect ripples on the water, geese flying in a V-formation, mushrooms forming a circle in the forest - they arouse admiration, but the surprise at their discovery is greater. This impression results from the association of the sense of order being a property belonging solely to the human mind, and being the result of its production, in contrast to the irregularity which characterises the living world. However, this could not be more wrong.
Nature is ruled by complex laws which impart rhythm and order to its activities. They result in a multitude of designs and motifs which nota bene have inspired man for thousands of years. Creative mechanisms of nature are characterised by unusual simplicity. The geometry of the emerging patterns is implemented according to the principle whereby identical modules grow into entire sets of forms. We can clearly see this method by looking at a crystal. “The crystalline structure is the result of a well-ordered arrangement of atoms subjected to the regime of forces affecting them. The size of the crystal is derived from the reproduction of its elemental structure” - we read in the description of the object, which is Halite crystals from the Salt Works Museum in Wieliczka. Calcite is formed in an analogous way. Interestingly, each wall of its single module takes the form of an isosceles rhombus.
The order of nature, which creates regular sets of forms, has been intuitively developed in decorative art. It adopted the same principle of simplicity in creating patterns, employing it in specific decorative elements. This example is well illustrated by the Sea Urchin from the collections of the Geological Museum of the Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, whose structure is formed by radially propagating, regular protuberances, inscribed in a circle. It makes one think of the form of a rosette or a star, which have been decorative motifs occurring throughout various epochs in all fields of art. (cf. Spoon Rack from Podhale, Cross of the Tailors’ Guild in Kęty).
Individual patterns are created thanks to basic shapes used in a variable or regular arrangement, placement or alternation. This method, combining elements in a simple fashion, allows you to obtain an infinite multitude of configurations. An example is the phenomenon of snowflakes or the Star-shaped quartz repeating the same pattern from the collection of the Geological Museum of the Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences.
The regularity of the pattern, however, should not be continuous, because your eyes will quickly get used to it. The element of surprise, deviation from the principle – this is what catches your attention.
In art, inspiration drawn from nature is not a novum, the formation and dependencies between both of them, in turn, is still a mysterious process, with the topic itself being undoubtedly relevant and still explored.

Elaborated by Paulina Kluz (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums), 
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland.

 

 

 

Bibliography:
Ernst H. Gombrich, Zmysł porządku: o psychologii sztuki dekoracyjnej, Kraków 2009. 

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Geological deposits of Wieliczka

The Wieliczka salt deposit is a small part of the Miocene marine sediments that fill the Carpathian depression and has a close link with the geological structure of this region. It was created about 13.6 million years ago, as a result of sedimentation in the Miocene Sea, formed subsequently by tectonic movements. The lithostratigraphic profile of the deposit and its surroundings includes the Mesozoic (Jura and Cretaceous) and Cenozoic (Neogen and Quaternary) periods.

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The Wieliczka salt deposit is a small part of the Miocene marine sediments that fill the Carpathian depression and has a close link with the geological structure of this region. It was created about 13.6 million years ago, as a result of sedimentation in the Miocene Sea, formed subsequently by tectonic movements. The lithostratigraphic profile of the deposit and its surroundings includes the Mesozoic (Jura and Cretaceous) and Cenozoic (Neogen and Quaternary) periods.
Jurassic deposits (rocky limestones) form the basis of Miocene sediments. In the area of the Wieliczka deposit, they occur at a depth of about 760 m. They subside stepwise in the south-easterly direction.
Flysch chalk deposits occur in the Carpathian overthrust, whose coastline runs more or less latitudinally through the southern part of Wieliczka. The front of the Carpathian overthrust is built of two tectonic units:

  • Silesian Nappe (mainly sandstone and shale)
  • Sub-Silesian Nappe (mainly spotted marl)

Neogene sediments are represented mainly by Miocene age deposits. These are characterised by high lithological variability, and very complicated tectonics in the area of the deposit. The following deposits are included in these sediments:

  • Skawińskie (subsalt) — mainly marly clay with some inserts of siltstone and sandstone
  • layers of sulphate and chloride evaporites — mud deposits with clusters of anhydrite, gypsum, and rock salt
  • Chodenickie (presalt) — mainly clays and mudstones, in some parts with gritty and overground layers of brittle sandstone
  • Grabowieckie — grey loams and sands locally called “Bogucice”

Elaborated by The Geological Museum of the Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, © all rights reserved

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Halite crystals

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