Rijckholt Flint Mine

Neolithic flint mines in the Maastricht area in the 1880's by Marcel De Puydt (1855-1940), a prominent Belgian archeologist. In 1914 the first shaft and the mining gallery of the Rijckholt mine were found in the wall of a small ravine and between 1923-1925, Prof. Dr. van Giffen and Dr. v.d. Sleen were the first Dutch archeologists of Dutch to excavate the site.

In 1964 Prof. Dr. Waterbolk from the Biological Archeological Institute of the Groningen University, discovered shafts more than 140m from the ravine, indicating very extensive mining activity has existed in Neolithic times. For the next 8 years members of the Prehistoric Flint Mines Working Group of the Dutch Geological Society, Limburg Section carried out excavations, finding a total of 75 shafts and 1,526 square meters of galleries - the entire area measuring 2,436 square meters.

The excavation found 14,549 artefacts, including 14,217 stone picks, 216 hammerstones, 43 voids (wooden objects), a human skull and a few bones of deer and cattle, plus numerous bones of other mammals and thousands of snail shells. Charcoal was found and (C14) dated to an age range of 3,970-3,700 BC, but mining activities probably continued till 3,400 BC or later.

The mines followed layers of flint in Cretaceous chalk (known locally as 'Mergel'). To reach the best flint layers, they first dug vertical shafts about 10m deep and 1m wide and then contsructed horizontal shafts in various directions, in a star like tunnel system. It is thought that the first tunnel was excavated and the waste chalk material transported up the shaft, later the material was removed and then stored in mined out shafts, which made the mines more stable. The shafts are about 60cm high and some end after a few meters, while others have branches.

In 1979 the artefacts discovered were exhibited in a new museum and the tunnel was opened to the public.

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