Painting of a carbon primeval forest

Source: Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Die Quellenvielfalt des Archivs
Image Documents
1910 - 1919
The picture shows a forest with vegetation typical of the time of hard-coal formation. The plants from which coal was formed are primarily ferns, horsetails and members of the clubmoss family.

This large painting of coal formation can be seen in ‘The Power-Station Era’ in the Energy exhibition of the Technisches Museum Wien (Vienna Technical Museum). It shows how a primeval forest would have looked approx. 300 million years ago. The so-called Carboniferous period (360 - 286 million years ago) was a time of particularly intensive coal formation. More than half of the coal extracted today comes from this time. It is almost always hard coal. Brown coal is (almost always) much younger, generally from the period 98 - 2 million years ago (the Upper Cretaceous to Tertiary periods).

The formation of coal from vegetable matter is called coalification. It starts with the emergence of peat bogs, such as can still be found today, as in the Ibner Moor in eastern Upper Austria. With the formation of rock over the top, the resultant increase in pressure and temperature initially formed brown and hard coal, before anthracite was finally produced, which is almost pure carbon.
There are two preconditions for the formation of peat: there must be lush plant growth and when the vegetable matter dies off it has to be covered sufficiently with water to prevent aerobic decay.

Inv.Nr. BPA-007810

Member of