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Stone Stories: Witness to times gone by

(December 2010) Former smelters and factories are being conserved as a matter of course to document heavy industry for generations to come. First steps in this direction were undertaken by the European funded project Quarry Scapes. After all quarries, too, are witness to human trade production in civilization.

The closing report is now available. Ten groups of scientists from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Italy as well as Great Britain, Belgium and Norway presented their findings. The report written in English (ISBN 978-82-7385-138-3, ISSN 0801-5961) is available at a cost of 200 Norwegian Crowns (or approx. 25 €), comprises 183 pages and a number of remarkable photos. See the web page for information on how to order your copy.

One of the aims of the project was to document heritage site quarries and to rediscover lost ones. Where quarries were opened to build cities, the latter often simply consumed them.

Separate studies are dedicated to e.g. the mining of alabaster for stone coffins in Egypt or to building material to construct the Roman city of Gerasa, today situated in Jordan. Sargalassos in Turkey is a point in case to implement quarries as tourist attractions in their own right and not only as a site for view royal dwellings.

Quarry Scapes

Ideas for former quarries

The Portuguese city of Braga is a famous example: Here Architects designed the FIFA 2004 stadium in a former quarry. Seating is provided only on the two lengths; the head of the stadium is a sheer stone wall now bearing the scoreboard – the foot opens to the landscape.

Paris‘ famous Montmartre cemetery was, in fact, a former gypsum mine.

Indeed, any location with a former quarry can call itself lucky as it has an inherent recreational area to call its own. This was a central theme at this year’s Marmomacc in Verona. Under the title of „Quarry Architecture“ („Architetture di Cava“) a coffee-table-book encompassing 160 pages and numerous photos was published in Italian and English (Faenza Scientifics, ISBN 88-6116-127-8).

One of a number of presentations is the tram meandering along the Mediterranean coast near Alicante which was an ancient strip mine. The Eden Project in the South of the British Isle in Cornwall is a botanical garden built under a roof – a defunct kaolin mine. Other examples are from Greece, Spain, France, Great Britain and Sweden.

Quarries still in use are not usually attributed such high marks – at least not from citizens nearby or friends of nature and the outdoors. But a turn of the century German compromise between quarry owners and ecologists is worth mentioning: the quarry owners committed to sustainability and protection of wildlife such as owl and lizards in return for a moratorium on the part of the ecologists.

An example of art at work in an active quarry was delivered at the Carrara Trade Fair this year. A video was uploaded and can be viewed.