Mine Adits, Bierkellers, and the Qanats of Bavaria-Bohemia

Authors: Dale Lightfoot*, Oklahoma State University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Europe
Keywords: qanat, water history, Europe, Bavaria, Bohemia
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Subterranean aqueducts, commonly known as qanats, are most often found in drylands of the eastern hemisphere but have been constructed in parts of Europe since the 8th century BCE. Most European qanats were built and used by Etruscans, Greeks, Romans, and Arab peoples around the Mediterranean periphery and other Romanized locales in Western Europe. Qanats in the border region of southern Germany and the Czech Republic appear enigmatic because they are (1) found in a moist climate outside the dryland or summer dry areas commonly associated with qanats, (2) excavated in igneous and metamorphic rock, a geology avoided by qanat builders elsewhere, and (3) not associated with any known group that constructed qanats elsewhere. More than 80 qanats in Bavaria and at least 60 in Bohemia have been found. In Bavaria, qanats are known as wasserstollen (water tunnel) and in Bohemia they are horizontální štola (horizontal tunnel), a term recently adopted by Czechs as all of these infiltration galleries—on both sides of the border—were constructed and used by Germans over the past 300 years. Older still, and more numerous, are the mine adits and beer cellar tunnels excavated by German miners since the mid-1400s. Experience with drainage tunnels in the mines and bierkellers eventually led to purpose-built water supply tunnels. Documents in local town archives and museums record the construction of dozens of qanats in the early 1700s, continuing through the latter 1800s, built by German engineers and miners on both sides of the border.

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