Holders of the Knowledge of Mining Civilization
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Technical Information

Holders of the Knowledge of Mining Civilization

    Property included in the Register of Intangible Heritage of Sicily (REIS)

Holders of the Knowledge of Mining Civilization

Forced to work naked because of the sweltering heat and because the clothes clung to the skin.

The poet Alessio di Giovanni dedicated these verses to the 'carusi', the children who transported the sulfur out of the mine and began to work at the age of seven or eight: '

... Scìnninu, naked, 'mmezzu li lurdduma /

of them scalazzi 'nfunnu allavancati; /

and, ccomu a li pirreri s'accustuma, /

vannu priannu: Jesuszzu, be flat! ... /

But ddoppu, essennu sutta lu smaceddu, /

grìdanu, vastimiannu a la canina, /

ca macari 'ddu Cristu' announces it ... '

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Technical data sheets prepared by: Region of Sicily - Department of cultural heritage and Sicilian identity - CRicd: Regional center for inventory, cataloging and documentation and Sicilian regional film library

N. Prog. 10
Well: Holders of the Knowledge of Mining Civilization
Book: REI - Book of living human treasures
Approval date: 25-01-2006
Category: Knowledge
Province: Caltanissetta
Location: central southern Sicily
Local denomination:The surfers
Chronological News
The mines of the province of Caltanissetta and in general of central southern Sicily are historically a very important resource for the island. The Nyssian basin distinguished itself, from the 800th century to the mid-900th century, for the extraction of salt and sulfur. It is precisely the extraction of this latter mineral that made Caltanissetta one of the world's largest producers of sulfur.
Technical Information
Throughout Sicily, mine workers have common traits, all holders of knowledge that have made the history of the island's mining production and all sharing the same absolutely difficult and precarious living and working conditions. 
Sicilian scholars and writers have dealt with these conditions of life and have made their works manifest as a denunciation of those conditions so at the limit of respect for human life.
Angelo Petix, originally from Montedoro, in the province of Caltanissetta, praised the sulfur miners of his land in his works. He denounced, in "The occupied mine", that the sulfur miners were common men, who suffered and thought, but who were treated as beasts of burden and slaves. He was treated as a beast of burden lu carusu, a boy who, to help support his family, began working in the mines at an early age. These could carry enormous weights and for very long journeys between the suffocating heat of the mines and the freezing cold of the external areas. They were also constant victims of injuries, caused not only by work but also by the pickaxes they were entrusted to.
Calogero Bonavia from Nyssa in "The servants of man" defined them as servants who walked in the night, who did not buy bread but dug it underground.
The pickaxes are, par excellence, the workers of the mines, who had the main task of extracting the rock material. They worked in extreme conditions: naked, with their feet in the water, in extremely high temperatures and in suffocating environments, prone to numerous diseases.
Finally, the Nyssian playwright and journalist Pier Maria Rosso di San Secondo in his play "Sleeping Beauty" describes, as in a realist painting, the portrait of the sulfur-bearer with a tight mouth and stinging eye, of which, he continues, is not seen not even a hair of beard. In the work, the mine worker is captured and described during his free time. His description almost wants to deny the violence and sadness of his working condition inside those narrow labyrinths.
Outside the mines there are few moments of leisure for the miners. Despite the denial by the workers themselves, singing can be counted as one of the leisure practices that they adopted to detach themselves from their living conditions.
The following fragment describes precisely the denial of that inhumane work:
“Ch'avianu a cantari ddà intra? Ca si scinnia cu lu cori tantu! " “A la pirrera nun was sung. Yes it was! "
An example of the working song of the sulfur miners is reported by Alberto Favara in the "Corpus of Sicilian folk music" This song can be attributed to the areas of Villarosa and Caltanissetta and a peculiarity is highlighted in it compared to the other professional songs: at the end of the song the annotation is shown "At the end of each sentence everyone strengthens with a guttural sound by detaching the mineral".
The song in question consists of four lines:
Ca sutta 'nta stu' nfernu puvireddi
nui semu cunnanati 'to tyranny
to hand of them wolves on the agneddi
ciancitini cianciti, my mom
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Bibliography
Addamus, Sebastian. 1989. Sulfur of Sicily. Palermo: Sellerio publisher.
Baron, Giuseppe. 2002. The routes of the South. History and scenarios. Rome: Donzelli Editore.
Mack Smith, Denis. 1976. History of medieval and modern Sicily., Bari: Laterza Publishers.
Squarzina, Federico. 1963. Production and trade of sulfur in Sicily in the XNUMXth century. Turin: ILTE.
Author Profile: Francesca Maria Riccobene

 

Intangible Heritage Register

N. Prog. 12
Well: Holders of the Knowledge of Mining Civilization
Book: REI - Book of living human treasures
Approval date: 25-01-2006
Category: Knowledge
Province: Enna
Location: central southern Sicily
 
Local denomination:The surfers
Chronological News
The work in the sulfur mines has been a very important source of sustenance for Sicily. In particular for the center of Sicily, during the entire nineteenth century, the mines became the major employment center of the population, who found employment there at an early age, sacrificing youth and health at the same time within those tunnels.
 
Following the turning point of the 16.000s, there was a significant change in the island's trade balance. Sulfur became the most exported raw material produced in Sicily. Faced with this flourishing period, the workers of the sulfur mines had reached 1860 units in 30.000, reaching 40.000 units at the end of the XNUMXs and XNUMX workers at the beginning of the XNUMXth century.
 
Technical Information
From entirely manual processing, the extraction of sulfur was a hard and difficult practice.
The knowledge of this process was divided between different figures who found accommodation both inside and outside the pyrrhera (mine). Inside the quarry was placed the skilled labor of the surfers, miners, while outside the seasonal and less specialized one.
We will proceed in order by describing one by one the workers of the mines, holders of a work practice that has now disappeared.
 
Lu carusu: a young man who, from an early age, to contribute to the subsistence of the family, begins to work in the mine in inhumane hygienic conditions. Shoulder transport clerk, each carusu it could carry enormous weights: from 25 to 30 kg for the little ones, and for the older ones from 30 to 80 kg of ore. Arranged the sulfur in wicker baskets, said ironing, protected by a padding called closed, began their journeys from the inside to the outside of the mine. They walked through tortuous, narrow, steep and suffocating tunnels, with slippery steps 20 to 40 cm high. Once out in the open air, they continued their journey in the cold, making an average of 29 trips a day.
Their remuneration, linked to an hourly piecework contract stipulated with the pickaxe, was really meager: they earned from 0.50 to 150 lire for 8-10 hours of work.
Speaking of the work situation of the carusu we cannot forget the so-called "rescue dead“, The cash advance that the family received from the pickaxe to ensure the child's exclusivity. A practice that many scholars of mining culture define "lease of human flesh“, Resulting in an authentic relationship of slavery, since it was almost impossible to repay the advance received, often prolonging, until old age, the boy's economic and moral dependence on the pickaxe. Due to the working conditions, i carusi they were often victims of injuries due to the enormous weight of the sulfur, from the wounds, bruises or bruises caused by the same pickaxes who wanted to induce them to load disproportionate weights compared to their strength.
 
Lu pirriaturi: the pickaxe was the real protagonist of the underground work. With his feet in the water, half naked or completely naked, he had the main task of excavating the rock material. His work consisted in the search for sulfur, a difficult activity due to the very high temperatures, up to 40 degrees, and for staying in narrow and suffocating environments with little light and air impregnated with gas and dust. Due to the extreme working conditions, the pickaxe was subject to various diseases and sudden loss of hair and nails. These could have from 2 to 4 carusi. The relationship between these remained a relationship between servant and master, based not only on the contract, but also on blackmail.
There were also picks called "of fall“, Able to open passages when dangerous landslides and landslides occurred.
The pickaxe's economic relations were also governed by a piecework contract with the gabello, according to which the manager of the mine paid in proportion to the quantity of raw sulfur extracted and transported to the mine floor. His remuneration varies between 3 and 3,50 lire per day. The relative height of wages, however, was reduced by deductions and frauds developed by the Gabelloti.
 
Lu spisalora: failed or without picks carusi, were involved in the research of new layers of sulfur, in the maintenance of the tunnels, supporting them with beams, and in the construction of fans.
 
The acqualora: their work consisted in releasing, manually or mechanically, the layers of sulfur with water. In cases where the mine was without water this was transported in wineskins or clay containers, quart e launched.
 
Lu carcarunara: used for open pit works, they filled the limestone with sulfur for the smelting of the mineral. At the end of the operation they emptied them to refill them. They worked in teams of 20-40 workers, mostly minors, said carusi external. The crew of treaders they were led by a boss who established the piecework contract with the gabellota of the mine.
 
The daring: also used for the external works, they supervised all the phases of the casting and casting of theogliu, i.e. molten sulfur. This was collected in special wooden containers called gaviti, inside which the sulfur cooled and hardened. At the end of this phase they were extracted balati them or solid sulfur loaves. The bravery they were well-paid workers because they had experience and important skills: the results of the entire production cycle depended on the quality of the combustion.
 
U capumastru: a very important figure in mine work, he was the one who gave the instructions on what to do due to his proven experience gained during many years of work in the field.
 
Bibliography
Addamus, Sebastian. 1989. Sulfur of Sicily. Palermo: Sellerio publisher.
 
Baron, Giuseppe. 2002. The routes of the South. History and scenarios. Rome: Donzelli Editore.
 
Mack Smith, Denis. 1976. History of medieval and modern Sicily., Bari: Laterza Publishers.
 
Squarzina, Federico. 1963. Production and trade of sulfur in Sicily in the XNUMXth century. Turin: ILTE.


 
Author Profile: Francesca Maria Riccobene
 
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