Prehistorisch monument: de prehistorische vuursteenmijnen te Rijckholt - st. Geertruid (vuursteenmijn)

De prehistorische vuursteenmijnen van Rijckholt - St. Geertruid

Prehistorisch monument: de prehistorische vuursteenmijnen te Rijckholt - st. Geertruid (vuursteenmijn)

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English summary

In 1881 flint-working sites were discovered in the south of the Netherlands, in the neighborhood of Maastricht near the Belgium border, by Marcel De Puydt, a prominent Belgian archeologist. Specially Belgium archeologists from the University of Liege did field work in this site till 1953.
In 1914 the first shaft and the mining gallery were found in the wall of a small ravine.

During 1923-1925 Prof. Dr. van Giffen and Dr. v.d. Sleen were the first archeologists of Dutch origin who did some successful excavations. 
In 1964 Prof. Dr. Waterbolk from the Biological Archeological Institute of the Groningen University discovered a couple of shafts more than 140 meters from the ravine. So he proved that a very extended mining activity has existed in Neolithic times. At that time, twelve members of the Netherlands Geological Association planned to continue the excavations by digging a gallery from the first discovered flint mines up to the new shaft field. This gallery would have a total length of 150 m.

More information:

From 1964 to 1972, the Prehistoric Flint Mines Working Group of the Dutch Geological Society, Limburg Section carried out excavations of flint mines at Rijckholt-St. Geertruid. The volunteer members of this group spent 3,767 man-days of free time exploring these mines. The writing of interim reports and publication possibly took as many days off.

The excavation proceeded from a tunnel, almost 150 metes long, which was driven right across the mining area. On either side the prehistoric galleries were examined over a width of 10 meters. A total of 75 shafts and 1,526 square meters of galleries were encountered and examined, the entire area measuring 2,436 square meters. A mining area of such an extent had not been investigated previously. The total area, however, is even more extensive.
Underground mining extends over c. 8 hectares; flint was extracted from an area measuring c. 12 hectares, while the region with prehistoric knapping debris is larger still and measures almost 25 hectares.

All shafts, galleries and objects found were plotted in great detail. The excavation yielded 14,549 artefacts, amongst which 14,217 stone picks, 216 hammerstones, 43 voids (of wooden objects) as well as a few bones of deer and cattle. In addition, a human skull, numerous bones of smarter mammals, thousands of snail shells and charcoal were collected. Radiocarbon (C14) dating of the charcoal finds yielded an age range of4315-4040 BC, but mining activities probably continued till 3,400 BC or even 2,650 BC.

Methods employed during the excavation are described, and an attempt is made to reconstruct methods applied in prehistoric times.

Calculations of  the total amount of flint extracted (14-16 million kilogram's from an area of 8 hectares) and the number of shafts in the area (c. 2,000) suggest that more than 400,000 artefacts may still be present in the subsoil at Rijckholt-St. Geertruid.

The working group proved that the Neolithic flint mining  industry in the Netherlands is of the same rank as that of Spiennes in Belgium and of other well-known Neolithic mines in Europe.

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