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Sphalerite from “Pomorzany” Coalmine

Delusive, sneaky, deceptive, uncertain ... What makes sphalerite deserved such adjectives? For a very long time, geologists couldn’t identify this mineral. Finally, the study confirmed that it is a zinc ore.

Mining trolley

Mine carts, called Hungarian dogs, appeared in the Wieliczka excavations at the end of the 18th century, and they were put into operation by the Austrian partition authorities, to whom the mine belonged at that time. The rather funny name of these transport devices is most likely related to the sounds made by their wheels while moving.

Horse mill

Because of the fact that in the salt mines of the Kraków region, i.e. salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia, salt lies deep underground, it was excavated through shafts by using the right tools, like devices with a horizontal drive shaft (windlass), handwheels, treadwheels (internal and external), devices with a vertical drive shaft (cross, water-mill), devices with a vertical-horizontal drive shaft (gear mill with a winding reel, gear mill with two winding reels, gear mill with a brake drum) and braking devices.

Sleigh for the transportation of salt

During the first centuries of the existence of mines, small spoil was transferred from the face to the shaft in the basins and reeds; salt rocks and barrels were rolled with the help of walacz rods or pulled on the szlafy (the so-called sanice). The szlafy are mentioned only in 18th century sources; however, given the fact that they have been used on the surface long before the mine was created, it can be assumed that they were used in the Wieliczka salt pits in the Middle Ages.


Presented specimen is unique because of the locus of occurrence holomorphic zinc and lead ores. It takes the form of fine-grained, dense masses, which, after surface polishing, are very effective - as in the case of our sphalerite.

Sphalerite — Galena

Sphalerite is a zinc blende; and galena, is a lead sulfide (lat. galena means lead ore), both are common minerals from the class of sulphide.

Salt sculpture “St. Barbara”

The sculpture was carved in green salt and represents Saint Barbara. The figure stands on a cubic pedestal.

Horse-drawn train

The first, and quite numerous, projects of railway transport in the Wieliczka salt mine were designed around the mid-19th century; however, they were never implemented because of the enormous costs of drift reconstruction. Only in 1857 did the board devise the first precise plan for this challenging enterprise and the first works commenced. In 1861 the first metal rails were installed and after that almost all transport in the mine was conducted by wagons with metal boxes or horses pulling platforms.

Oil mining lamp

This is a miner's oil lamp with a wick. In the second half of the eighteenth century, miners began using tin oil lamps, which were mostly fuelled by oil mixed with kerosene.

Oil mining lamp

The earliest source of confirmation regarding use of oil lamps in the Wieliczka Mine dates back to the beginning of the 16th century, but there are no exact data on the shape and material from which they were made. Probably, two types of oil lamps were used: clay – to be held in the hand or adapted to be placed on a flat surface; and metal – with a hook for carrying and hanging, connected with a container for tallow. The shapes of both types are similar – pear-shaped and vertical.

Marcasite from “Pomorzany” Coalmine

Marcasite is a common mineral, which is finding mainly in sedimentary rocks, like limestones, marls or clayey rocks. It belongs to the class of sulphides. Marcasite at increased temperatures undergoes irreversibly in pyrite, because it is a impermanent form of pyrite. Marcasite and pyrite are polymorphic variants of iron sulfide. It has a brass-yellow color with a greenish tinge and a metallic sheen.

Calcite with marcasite

Presented specimen is a dense and grainy aggregate of marcasite, on which surface grown the crystals of calcite.

Carbide mining lamp

Carbide lamps consisted of two metal containers, one on top of the other. Carbide was the bottom one, whereas the top one contained water. The carbide container had a pipe going out of it with a burner at the end. At the bottom of the water container there was a small hole through which water dripped slowly onto the carbide.

Hungarian-style horse mill

The Hungarian-style horse mill was the best machine for the vertical transportation of salt. It was able to lift loads that weighed over 2 tonnes from a depth greater than 300 m. It was an improved version of the Saxon-style horse mill implemented by Austrians after the First Partition of Poland. Since 1861 it was replaced by steam engines and after 1913 by electrical machines.

Salt stalactite

This was used to identify a stalactite with an elongated, spindly-shape, hanging from the ceiling, for example, in a cave. It turns out that, in the case of halite, secondary crystallizations that grow from top to bottom can also take forms that are far from their classic appearance.

Salt block

The basic method for moulding the salt bed in the Wieliczka mine was to tear it out with the use of iron wedges; the cuboid blocks were then treated and transformed into barrel shapes or a cylinder for trading purposes. Those blocks were the main product of salt mines in the region of Kraków for six centuries — from the second half of the 13...