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World Heritage Site: "Upper Harz Water Regale"


The exhibition shows the development of the Upper Harz water management system and the interaction between the individual technical structures that were built for the purpose of storing water and diverting water into the mines. 120 dammed ponds, approximately 500 kilometres of ditch, around 30 kilometres of tunnel and about 100 kilometres of drainage adits were built in total. Initially, this was all done by manual labour. Later on, this was complemented by the use of whims, then water wheels and pumps. Ponds, dams and ditches had to be built, as well as wheel chambers, flatrod systems and other structures. Examples are shown, if possible with geopoint references of the Geopark Harz – Braunschweiger Land – Ostfalen and other information points of the geopark, which is under the auspices of the UNESCO.

Water servants at work

1. Water servants

In the Middle Ages, servants with leather buckets had to form a chain to extract the water that was constantly seeping into the mines. This was heavy physical work, which was only possible up to a depth of about 20 meters.

Water drainage with hand whim

2. Water drainage with hand whims

Even simple technology made it easier to drain the mines. With hand whims, only two miners were needed to haul the water-filled buckets to the surface.

Underground repairs

3. Underground repairs

All technical facilities were made from wood, making them susceptible to damage.
Mine carpenters had to carry out this exhausting work in dark and confined spaces under difficult and dangerous conditions.

Water wheel and flatrods

4. Water wheel and flatrods

Water wheels made it possible to fill the pits with water power instead of muscle power (water lifts water). Often, the shafts were too high up for the water to reach. In these cases, flatrod systems and water wheels were used to move the water from the lower-lying water wheel to the shaft. Sometimes, the water needed to be moved over a distance of up to 1,000 metres! (As can be seen at Carler Teich/ Clausthal-Zellerfeld and at Maassener Gaipel / Lautenthal)

The impact of mining

The animal kingdom of the Harz

In the temperate zones, humans have cut down much of the forest, with devastating effects on plant and animal life. The only reforestation occurred in the form of monoculture planting. In the 10th century, the large forests were mainly used as hunting grounds, where the wildlife was hunted down mercilessly. Due to the increasing air pollution and acid rain, the forest decline continued at an ever-increasing pace, and mass tourism does the rest. Many species are close to extinction; the lynx, for example, was once widespread. But as a dangerous predator, it was hunted down mercilessly, just like many birds of prey. How long will we still be able to glimpse a wood grouse – the iconic bird of the Harz region - during courtship in its natural mountain habitat?!

More dioramas can be viewed in our museum.