Local History

Travers, Mines d'asphalte. Photo/Foto: TES.

Ham Cooked in Asphalt

A restaurant in Val-de-Travers offers a remarkable recipe: ham cooked in asphalt. The asphalt mines in this valley were exploited from the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Already in 1711, the Greek physician Eirini d’Eyrinys (1630-1730) discovered the first medical applications of this material, and he also laid the foundation for asphalt as natural cement. He got old with it.

The first mine was an open-pit mine in the Combe-Vaubayon. Around 1830 the exploitation of the Spesa mine starts in Travers. The mine soon became the property of an English company, the “Neuchâtel Asphalte Company Ltd.”.

In 1960 the mine was taken over by another English company. The operation stopped in 1986.

Ham cooked in asphalt was part of the daily diet of the miners. Visitors of the museum can visit hundreds of metres of mine shafts underground. (www.mines-asphalte.ch).