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Swedish stone grinds the worlds grain

My faithful readers know we have our vacation home in Mariestad, Sweden. Staying there for the whole July gives a great opportunity to explore and experience all kinds of culture and historical places in the local area. Blogging often inspires me to do extra research, and in this post I will share an educational visit to a very old Mill Stone mine. You might like to know or see what a thousand year old mill stone looks like, so I start with a collection of pictures from a Mill Stone Park nearby the mill:

While there a few weeks ago, we had an excellent guided tour all by ourselves. Our guide was bombarded with questions of course, since you know I am a curious and talkative person. So let me give you some of the historical background:
Millstones have been a feature here for 800 years and according to spoken tradition they were first made by Cistercians monks who came here in 1147. The production continued until 1919 and today you can visit one of the last mines to be used, several opencast plus the museum. We are talking about one of the few millstone mills in the world as the stones have been made here for 800 years and man’s industry has left traces all around the hills. Dense deciduous forest hides much of the mile-long heaps of discarded stone, but all around you can see the heritage left behind by old inhabitants of Lugnås in the form of around 600 opencast and 55 mines one of which is open to the public. Here you see a couple of pics from one of the mines:

Millstone Mine #2 Millstone Mine #2

According to spoken tradition mining was begun by monks in the 12th century and it grew into an industry which in the 1850’s became larger than all the other industries in Mariestad put together. The Lugnås dominance over the market can be explained by the good supply of suitable gneiss rich in feldspar and kaolin. The quarrying was done using simple tools and methods in opencasts or in mines. The work was very hard and many quarrymen died young.

By the guide we where also told that they worked here from May to October as it was too cold and to much snow to work in the winter time. There where around 500 working there at the most and the woman and children started first at 6 in the morning to clean the mines and empty it for water and the workday ends at 8 in the evening. The temperature in the mines was not more than 14C (57F) so you can say it was a very hard working conditions. The stones was highly valued and findings of these stones are reported as far away as South Africa, which is pretty impressive for such an old industry. So its no exaggeration to say that Swedish stone ground the worlds grain!

I’ve had a correspondence with Ingemar from the Mill Stone Mine. He thanked me for the post and came with a couple of correction:
1: The normal temperature in the mine was 7C (45F)!
2: The most frequent customers where Scandinavian and Germany. Some clever shippers used the stones to balance the boat deepest in the ship with the advantage that they could sell them and wight the ship with other goods on the return trip. Roamers says they took them as far as Turkey and North Africa (so not south as I reported earlier).

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  1. wow the mill stone mine are awesome and you did a great shot too. In the Philippines their are mines too i just forgot if it is gold mine or diamond :D
    u take care renny and thanks for the birthday greetings for my daughter.

    Glad you liked the post and the pics too! Gold or diamond – go get some pics :D

  2. It seems you enjoyed “working” in this mine. ;-)
    Those stones are quite amazing.
    Interesting info as usual. You are a living encyclopedia about Norway & Sweden.

    No problem to be a part time worker you know ;-)
    Thanks for your compliments Sidney!

  3. You know, you hear about millstones and see them at various times during traveling, but never think about the origin of them
    That was a wonderfully informative post, Renny. Isn’t terrible, before the technology and machinery we have today, that men, women and children should have to work in those conditions. That children should have to work at all was bad enough…then again, those were the times.
    Thanks for a very interesting post, Renny. I like the photograph of you pretending to wield a miner’s pick!

    Glad you liked it too and that I could give you something to think about:)
    I do agree; life is much easier today and to often we forget it.

  4. Very interesting piece of history! I can’t imagine how the women & children’s working situation at those times.These Mill Stones are really impressive!Thanks for sharing them to us renny! I hope you’re having a fantastic weekend! take care!

    Thanks and your so right
    Wishing you a great week ahead then!

  5. We have been to many historical mills here in the US. I’d never thought to ask where the stones came from. But they do look like yours. Next time we go on a tour of a mill, I will have to ask.

    You never know – they might have come from Sweden then.

  6. Thank you for that, it’s such an interesting post. I’ve never before thought before about where mill stones come from, or the conditions they may have been made under.

    Thanks for your compliments!

  7. Wow – this is very cool. I think at times, it’s just amazing what you can find nearby. Other times, I’ve found it takes years for me to see things right outside my backdoor. It’s just too close to really notice and appreciate these things.. I’m getting better at that now though, being an expat..
    By the way, try going back to vote for me now. Just press on the stars and vote. No need to register..
    And if anyone else would like me reach over 200 plus votes in a photo contest, just hop over to my page and vote on the first post with the link provided.

    I do agree, but it helps being a blogger I think – makes the day more interesting as research is part of the game.
    I’ve been there and voted of course and hope all my readers do the same!!

  8. Fascinating, Renny….Such History…And how incredibly hard these people had to work…How did they survive it?
    About that MEME: If you decide to do it I think you will find it fun…if not…that’s okay, too! I tagged you because yoiu always share such interesting things with all of us ALL over the world.

    Glad you liked it too Naomi!
    Thanks for tagging me – how flattering – I’ll have to think about it.

  9. Love this photo with you grinning at the camera holding a pick axe! :-) Very interesting post…never knew much about millstones, so thanks to you I know a little more!

    Its easy when only for a picture you know :-) Thanks for your compliments – I always want my readers to learn something you know.

  10. Of course, as the Swede I am, I had heard some of these facts already butt didn’t remembered it until I read it here :-) They really are amazing though. Such hard work were performed in old times, not only with the mill stones….
    I’m so glad that I’m born in the time period I am :-)

    Glad I could refresh your memory then!
    and I am glad I’m born in the same time period as you :-)

  11. that’s really interesting. i never really thought about where these huge millstones must have come from but someone had to fashion them somehow. and it really is amazing to think they made it as far as south africa, not exactly an easy thing to transport!

    Glad you found it interesting too. Please read the update!

  12. I havn’t been there in Västra Götaland but i’m sure one day ;)
    The windmills are just so historically beautiful!
    I had a great weekend! Thanks! You?

    I do hope you’ll manage one day and tell me so we might meet!
    Mine was terrific – Hope you’ll have a great week ahead too then!

  13. Fascinating and interesting information Renny….I am from Welsh background and it is always interesting to hear about the Welsh miners and the conditions that they worked under…..very similar to your miners…..

    Thanks – I always want to give my readers something special you know.
    Welsh and Norway has a lot in common you know!

  14. This is interesting! Millstones are fascinating. These are great photos. Interesting, isn’t it, that such ancient utilitarian things can become works of contemporary, abstract art. I have a photo of my daughter sitting on a millstone near an old paper mill. It’s lying there as if someone got tired of carting it off to someplace sensible or couldn’t think of one. A great reminder of the kind of work that went into our daily bread. Makes us chew more slowly!

    Thanks for your compliments for both the post and the pics – I was fascinated by the way these mill stones where lying on the grass too and could not resist trying to make kind of art movee of it.

  15. Fascinating to find out where millstones come from. Monks had their hands in a lot of things but I guess in that day, a higher percentage of the society were brothers as well. Apparently high tea with scones and clotted cream are owing to the monks feeding itinerant workers as well.

    Yea, its always interesting to find backgrounds and history for things we take for granted. i also think it shows the position of the monks in the society in that time.

  16. I think that grain is something that we now take for granted and have forgotten how difficult it used to be to mill the grain to make the bread we eat daily. What a wonderful tour, Renny!

    I do agree and sometimes we need a reminder of how easy life is today. Glad you liked the tour!

  17. Very interesting photos and story regarding millstones. Thanks for the personal “tour!”

    I appreciate your comment. I like people to learn something new from my post you know.

  18. He-he – you got a Summerjob in the mine -LOL- Good traing for your tennis-playing.
    I remember you told us something about this, when we visited you all in Mariestad this summer, but I had no idea it was so big and important for the community – and for so long time. Thanks for sharing – also to your guide

    Yea, but not that good payed though LoL
    I remember we told you and also there is a lot more to explore in Mariestad aria you know so welcome back for more and more and more!

  19. Great shots and fascinating story! We visited an old grain mill in the French Alps recently , a tiny one which wasn’t as old as yours. The miller was usually the head of a large family and he had to make sure he had enough bread to feed them all, he wouldn’t charge money but 5% of the weight of the grains the farmers brought to him to be processed. The ski industry made it impossible for the farmers to further cultivate the grains…aargh, I hated to hear that but it is reality!

    Glad you liked mine and thank you so much for sharing yours – this is kind of comments that enriches the subject and I do like that!

  20. Hi Renny! another interesting story from you! I can imagine the hard works those monks endured during the 12th century..with no advance tools such like what we have in our modern times.
    btw, how deep was that hole you’re standing next to?
    have a fine week, my friend!

    I do agree: its hard to imagine so it was educating to see it with your own eyes.
    The hole was as deep as the mill stone: approximately 30 cm.
    Wish you a good one too!

  21. Maybe the Swedish were also busy skiing during those colder winter months?!!
    The old sayings,”Keep your nose to the grindstone” to encourage hard work, and “Back to the grindstone” after a holiday, both make a lot of sense!
    Just out of interest, why did you choose this place and country in which to have your summer house? Climate? Cost? Beauty?

    I think your right! I like your connection to the sayings!
    To your question: Mostly cost and things are sometimes greener on the other side of the fence (read border) you know:-) Other than that the climate is mostly the same and the beauty: well, not very different from Norway but difference make a vacation feeling you know.

  22. Hallo my friend! Nice to be back here. I am still quite busy since opening of classes and such other problems. Anyway lovely pictures and they look like big barbells! It is always nice to see that you have tons of adventures.

    Good to see you Chas and thanks for stopping by even if busy and having problems! Glad you liked the post too!

  23. Hey, my mum’s got a stone grain-grinder that has pride of place in her garden…Not a thousand years old (at least I doubt it is), but it’s still nonetheless a Chinese antique.
    Anyhow, just thought I’d drop by to say howdeedo…Looks like you’re doing well! Oh, and congrats on those awards…you have my vote too! :-)

    Sounds like a great garden decoration then!
    Howdeedo and thanks for your vote!

  24. An interesting post Renny! I can’t imagine the way of life people had at this time! And even children were working! It’s a good think to share all over the world life and work of our ancestors. We don’t forget their hard work and contribution preparing the modern world we know now.

    Thanks Claudie and I agree: a very thoughtful comment!

  25. you can’t be a miner. you don’t fit the picture of a miner. hehehehe.
    i’m sure all you’ve asked from your guide are historical facts :)

    Why don’t I fit in – I felt perfectly well in that picture LoL!
    I’m always curious you know and want facts for my posts:-)

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