Nature embedded in amber
Amber as a precious material was known since the beginning of mankind. In the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. the amber trade reached its peak. At that time, the Amber Road led from the Adriatic Sea through Hungary, Silesia, along the rivers Prosna and Vistula to the Baltic see. Both the Curonian and Vistula Spits were famous for amber mining. During the Middle Ages, amber extraction on the Vistula Spit was the exclusive privilege of the Teutonic Order. Anyone caught illegally mining faced the death penalty by hanging. In later times, it was a prerogative of the guild of amber artisans. Amber was valued for its numerous medicinal uses. According to ancient authors (e.g. Pliny the Elder), amber helped with fits of rage, difficulty urinating, stomach pain, and fever. The origin of amber has been hotly debated. Some claimed it was a form of stone, others that it was fossilized tree sap. The latter hypothesis was confirmed by the discovery of insects or plant parts encased in amber. Among the many early modern scientists who wrote about amber were those who lived and worked in Elbląg. In the 1550s, the then rector of Gymnasium Andreas Aurifaber published the dissertation De succino. Two hundred years later, Nathanael Sendel published his Electrologiae (“Amberologies”) in Elbląg.