Bulletin of the National Speleological Society - ISSN 0146-9517
Number 17: 8-18 - December 1955

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Saltpetre Mining Tools Used in Caves
Burton Faust


Most speleologists realize that caves aided the cause of the United States in the War of 1812 by providing saltpetre, a vital ingredient of explosives of the time. But the earliest recorded uses of saltpetre date back more than 4000 years. In the course of his cave studies, the author has fitted together a comprehensive picture of the tools and methods by which the compound was extracted from cave earth. In general, form followed function, consistent with tool material available and existing technology. The material presented clearly shows the development of the industry up to a time when it vanished as a form of human activity, leaving little behind but the tools themselves as one measure of man's progress.

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