The Mystery of the Erdställe
July 30, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

There are more than 700 curious tunnel networks in Bavaria, but their purpose remains a mystery. Were they built as graves for the souls of the dead, as ritual spaces or as hideaways from marauding bandits? Archeologists are now exploring the subterranean vaults to unravel their secrets.

The Erdstall ("Earth Stable") has long been a known feature across Europe, but they're beginning to attract real attention. They are quite heavily concentrated in South-Central Europe. They aren't discussed much in English, but German speakers seem to know quite a bit about them. [Original German page]

There is at least one group which is working to research these mysterious man-made caves. [Original German site] Individuals also seek to uncover their mysteries. [Original German page]

Some videos (sadly, Google Translate can't manage these.... yet.) A museum exhibit about an Erdstall. A silent exploration of a shallow Erdstall. Austrian magazine shows explore Erdställe. (Warning -- thick Austrian German accents.)
posted by hippybear (20 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posting this. I found it last week and sent it to a friend in Munich, no news back yet.
posted by adamvasco at 6:41 AM on July 30, 2011

It's probably useful to know that the similar tunnels in Scotland (mentioned in the first article) are known as Souterrains in Scotland and Ireland, and Fogous in Cornwall. The Scottish examples are usually relatively shallow and short compared to some of the Erdstalls, as well as often being stone lined. I've crawled through a few of them, a very interesting experience, but rough on the knees and trousers!

If spiritual use of underground structures is being talked about (again mentioned in some articles), then Mine Howe is a good comparator - a staircase leading down into a small chamber. There may be no consensus on what it's purpose was but it certainly feels like a place to communicate with the underworld or spirits - all sound from outside is blocked out, the narrowness and height of the chamber make you feel very small and much, much deeper underground than you are.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:04 AM on July 30, 2011

There was a narrow "Schlupf" section at the end of the labyrinth. It reminds the researchers of a vagina.

That's some good science there, boys.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the obvious is right in front of you. Goblins are/were real.

Poor little goblins.
posted by RedEmma at 7:52 AM on July 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

They delved too deep and awoke the nameless fear?
posted by elizardbits at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Goblins with tails attached to their rumps, even, according to the Spiegel article.
posted by tykky at 8:22 AM on July 30, 2011

So how long until the History Channel turns these into Hitler's magic death tunnels?
posted by Toby Dammit X at 8:26 AM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

It led to a unique gallery with walls made of sand. Initially the tunnel went down vertically for 4 meters, and then it continued in a zigzag pattern. There was a narrow "Schlupf" section at the end of the labyrinth. It reminds the researchers of a vagina.

Wasmeier once took a group of female healers down into his cave. The women slid headlong through the tunnel, in complete darkness, as if passing through a birth canal.

What is going on with this article
posted by dubitable at 8:37 AM on July 30, 2011

Oh, how adorable, some writer just discovered the metaphor.
posted by Spatch at 8:45 AM on July 30, 2011

you dropped your simile.
posted by clavdivs at 9:31 AM on July 30, 2011

Great holes secretly are digged where earth's pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl.
posted by SPrintF at 9:35 AM on July 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

What is going on with this article

Pretend Werner Herzog is reading it aloud and it will make more sense.
posted by stbalbach at 9:49 AM on July 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

They were built to allow Adam Weishaupt to secretly tool around in his Ewige-Blumenkraftmobile.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:03 AM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's where the time travellers had to come to play wi-fi games with their iPhones. And, of course, to hide from the "excesses" of Walpurgisnacht.
posted by Twang at 12:34 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pretend Werner Herzog is reading it aloud and it will make more sense.

Needs more fornication.
posted by jokeefe at 1:53 PM on July 30, 2011

sometimes a tunnel is just a tunnel
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:21 PM on July 30, 2011

Minecraft LARP.
posted by The otter lady at 10:22 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Many galleries are connected to the sites of former settlements. The tunnel entrances are sometimes located in the kitchens of old farmhouses, near churches and cemeteries or in the middle of a forest. The atmosphere inside is dark and oppressive, much as it would be inside an animal den."
It's how the vampires or otherwise uncouth cannibalistic humans traveled in their sub-terranean habitat! a la "The Rats in the Walls".....
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:03 AM on July 31, 2011

Occarm's razor says... Porn stash.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:44 PM on July 31, 2011

I'm guessing that the less familiar the reader is with German culture, the more the weird translation would seem... The lead article in the OP seemed fairly consistent with journalistic attempts to spice up archeology ("no one knows who built these tunnels, some say goblins, others say elves, although the archeologists we interviewed all agreed it was most likely human beings who built them, maybe even before the invention of zoning laws and permits"), just with a Germanic flavor, I.e. minus alien abduction, elvis, the Bermuda Triangle,etc but with that stuff replaced with goblins & elves & other GFT type stuff.

Note the part where the article says the tunnels couldn't possibly have been used for storage, but the author and editor clearly forgot that elsewhere the article cites Erdställe that were found being used to store things.

posted by illovich at 9:04 PM on July 31, 2011

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