Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes (Mons)

Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes (Mons)

The Neolithic flint mines at Spiennes, covering more than 100 ha, are the largest and earliest concentration of ancient mines in Europe. They are also remarkable for the diversity of technological solutions used for extraction and for the fact that they are directly linked to a settlement of the same period.

Minières néolithiques de silex de Spiennes (Mons)

Les mines de silex du néolithique à Spiennes, qui couvrent plus de 100 ha, sont les centres d'extraction minière les plus vastes et les plus anciens d'Europe. Elles sont aussi remarquables par la diversité des solutions techniques mises en œuvre pour l'extraction et en raison de leur lien direct avec un peuplement de la même période.

مناجم الصوان من العصر الحجري الحديث في سبيين- (مونس)

مناجم الصوان من العصر الحجري الحديث في سبيين(مونس) تُعتبر مناجم الصوان العائدة إلى العصر الحجري الحديث في سبيين والتي تفوق مساحتها 100 هكتار، المراكز الأكبر والأقدم في أوروبا للإستخراج المنجمي. وتتميّز هذه المناجم بالحلول الفنية المتنوعة التي طُبقّت في عملية الإستخراج وبصلتها المباشرة بتوطّد سكاني من الحقبة نفسها.

source: UNESCO/ERI

斯皮耶纳新石器时代的燧石矿

斯皮耶纳新石器时代的燧石矿面积达100多公顷,是欧洲最大且最早的古代矿坑汇集地。这些燧石矿的非凡在于提炼技术的多样化,及其与当时人类聚落之间的直接联系。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Неолитические каменоломни в районе Спьенн, окрестности города Монс

Неолитические каменоломни в районе Спьенн, занимающие площадь более 100 га, являются крупнейшим и древнейшим в Европе комплексом такого рода объектов. Каменоломни примечательны разнообразием использовавшихся при добыче полезных ископаемых технологических решений, а также своей связью с поселениями того времени.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Minas neolíticas de sílex de Spiennes (Mons)

Las minas de sílex de Spiennes, que datan del Periodo Neolítico y se extienden por más de 100 hectáreas, son los centros de extracción de mineral más vastos y antiguos de Europa. Constituyen un ejemplo notable de la diversidad de técnicas utilizadas por el hombre prehistórico para extraer el sílex y ofrecen un interés excepcional por su vinculación directa con asentamientos humanos de ese periodo.

source: UNESCO/ERI

スピエンヌの新石器時代の火打石の鉱山発掘地(モンス)
モンス市はベルギー南西部、エイノー州の州都。100ha余りの面積に広がるこの鉱山発掘地は、まとまった古代採石場としてはヨーロッパ最大かつ最古の遺跡である。6000年以上前から最初の住民が、スピエンヌ近郊の台地で火打石の露天掘りを行っていた。その後、新石器時代の農耕民が竪穴の坑道を掘り始め、紀元前8世紀頃まで続いた。この遺跡の発見によって明らかになったのは、技術の多彩さばかりでなく、採石場が現代の集落と直結した点である。

source: NFUAJ

Neolithische vuursteenmijnen te Spiennes (Mons)

De neolithische vuursteenmijnen in Spiennes beslaan meer dan 100 hectare en bestaan uit twee krijtplateaus gescheiden door de Trouille vallei. Het zijn de grootste en oudste concentratie van oude mijnen in Europa. Ze zijn opmerkelijk vanwege de diverse gebruikte extractietechnieken en het feit dat ze rechtstreeks gekoppeld zijn aan een nederzetting uit dezelfde periode. De mijnen waren vele eeuwen lang in bedrijf en illustreren hoe de prehistorische mens zich ontwikkelde en aanpaste op technologisch gebied. De grote deposito's mijnmateriaal waren van essentieel belang voor de productie van instrumenten en werktuigen, en daarmee voor de culturele evolutie in het algemeen.

Source: unesco.nl

  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Dutch
Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes (Mons) © Donar Reiskoffer
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes occupy two chalk plateaux located to the south-east of the city of Mons. They cover an area essentially devoted to agriculture. The site appears on the surface as a large area of meadows and fields strewn with millions of scraps of worked flint. Underground, the site is an immense network of galleries linked to the surface by vertical shafts dug by Neolithic populations.

The Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes are the largest and earliest concentration of ancient mines of north-west Europe.  The mines were in operation for many centuries and the remains vividly illustrate the development and adaptation of mining techniques employed by prehistoric populations in order to exploit large deposits of a material that was essential for the production of tools and cultural evolution generally. They are also remarkable by the diversity of technical mining solutions implemented and by the fact that they are directly linked to a habitat contemporary to them.

In the Neolithic period, (from the last third of the 5th millennium until the first half of the 3rd millennium), the site was the centre of intensive flint mining present underground. Different techniques were used, the most spectacular and characteristic of which was the digging out of shafts of 0.8 to 1.20m in diameter with a depth down to 16 metres. Neolithic populations could thus pass below levels made up of large blocks of flint (up to 2m in length) that they extracted using a particular technique called ‘striking’ (freeing from below with support of a central chalk wall, shoring up of the block, removal of the wall, removal of the props and lowering of the block). The density of the shafts is important, as many as 5,000 in the zone called Petit Spiennes (14 ha), leading to criss-crossing of pits and shafts in some sectors.

Stone-working workshops were associated with these mining shafts as is witnessed by numerous fragments of flint still present on the surface and which give its name to a part of the site, Camp à Cayaux (Stone Field). Essentially the production aimed at the manufacture of axes to fell trees and long blades to be transformed into tools. The standardisation of the production bears witness to the highly skilled craftsmanship of the stone-cutters of the flint of Spiennes. The vestiges of a fortified camp have also been discovered at the site comprising two irregular concentric pits at a distance of 5 to 10m. The archaeological artefacts discovered are characteristic of the Michelsberg culture discovered in the mining sector.

 Criterion (i): The Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes provide exceptional testimony to early human inventiveness and application.

Criterion (iii): The arrival of the Neolithic cultures marked a major milestone in human cultural and technological development, which is vividly illustrated by the vast complex of ancient flint mines at Spiennes.

Criterion (iv): The flint mines at Spiennes are outstanding examples of the Neolithic mining of flint, which marked a seminal stage of human technological and cultural progress.

Integrity

Since the end of the Metal Ages, the site has not known any significant occupation. Ancient maps show it as agricultural land, lying fallow in the areas where an abundance of flint made it unsuitable for crops.

In the 18th century, the armies of Louis XIV dug out a pit of 3m in depth accompanied by an earthen wall.

In the 19th century flint was once again exploited, mainly on the surface for the manufacture of gun flints. The earthenware manufacturers also initiated production in certain parts of the site but in very limited areas (less than 100m2).

The digging of a railway line in 1867 cut through 25 mining shafts and is the origin of the discovery of the site. In the 20th century the laying of a gas pipe caused an alteration to the upper part of the shafts over an area of about 1800 m2.

However, these few alterations have not altered the quality of the site that retains a high level of integrity.

Authenticity

The Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes are fully authentic. Many of them have not yet been excavated and those that are open to the public have remained in their original state, with the exception of a few modern installations for comfort and security.


Protection and management requirements

The mines of Spiennes were listed by the Ministerial decree of 7 November 1991 that protects both the ensemble as a site and the mining structures as monuments.  Moreover, the site also figures on the List of Outstanding Heritage of Wallonia, the highest level of protection foreseen in the Walloon legislation.

Various other legal and regulations provisions cover the protection of the mining site, including the plan of the Mons-Borinage sector that concerns the zone listed for agricultural activities, the communal plan for development and nature of the City of Mons and legislation for the protection of draining catchment areas.

With regard to archaeology, limited excavations are executed by the competent service of the Heritage Department. The objective is both to become familiar with the site and to manage it as an archaeological reserve. The presence of archaeologists constitutes a surveillance in itself.

Following the decision of the Walloon Government of 25 August 2011 to provide the Walloon sites inscribed on the World Heritage List with a management plan, a Steering Committee, a Scientific Committee and a Management Committee were established.

The descent into the mines has for a long time been occasional, and the guided tours the responsibility of a local association. To encourage a better knowledge of the site it has been decided to create an interpretation centre. The location has been selected so as to limit as far as possible threats to the site whilst enabling the visitor to share the archaeological experience and the mining conditions of the Neolithic period. The materials and the size will favour integration of the building into the landscape and respect the site itself. The interpretation centre will complete the activities of the scientific base present at Camp à Cayaux since the mid-20th century.

Long Description

The arrival of the Neolithic cultures marked a major milestone in human cultural and technological development, which is vividly illustrated by the vast complex of ancient flint mines at Spiennes. The mines at Spiennes provide exceptional testimony to early human inventiveness and application. The mining centres, like the higher settlements, show there were already major changes taking place in Europe in the 5th and 4th millennia BCE. They constitute a landmark between the first settled communities and the emergence, probably in the Bronze Age, of true 'clan centres'.

The process of change throughout Europe is represented in Spiennes by the Michelsberg Culture, which was present in the middle Neolithic over a vast territory, including a large part of Germany, Belgium and northern France. Spiennes is a remarkable example of this culture because it has two characteristic sites: a fortified settlement on high ground and a vast flint mine.

The flint mines at Spiennes are outstanding examples of the lithic mining of flint, which marked a seminal stage of human technological and cultural progress. Spiennes is one of the best known examples of prehistoric flint mining. Its shafts are among the deepest ever sunk to extract this raw material. The exceptional size of the blocks of flint that were extracted shows how skilled the Neolithic miners must have been. The technique of 'striking', which is characteristic of Spiennes, was developed to allow these blocks to be extracted. The quality of the worked artefacts is one of the most remarkable illustrations of the great skill of the craftsmen, who produced extremely regular blades and axes 25cm long.

The Spiennes mines, covering more than 100ha, are the largest and earliest concentration of ancient mines in Europe. The mining site, 6 km south-east of Mons, occupies two chalk plateaux separated by the Trouille valley, a tributary of the Haine. The mines were in operation for many centuries and the remains vividly illustrate the development and adaptation of technology by prehistoric man over time in order to exploit large deposits of a material that was essential for the production of tools and implements, and hence for cultural evolution generally.

Underground flint mining was taking place there from the second half of the 5th millennium BCE (between 4400 and 4200 BCE), making Spiennes one of the oldest mining sites in Europe. Several dates show that mining activity went on, apparently without interruption, from the beginning of the middle Neolithic until the late Neolithic period. The considerable number of artefacts discovered at Spiennes, and more particularly the pottery, give a fairly precise picture of which human groups were engaged in underground flint mining. Spiennes was also important during the Metal Ages. Remains probably linked to settlements can be attributed to the late Bronze Age (8th or 7th centuries BCE) and the second Iron Age.

The first archaeological discoveries of prehistoric mine shafts were made in the 1840s, but it was not until 1867, when the Mons-Chimay railway line cut part of the Petit-Spiennes plateau, that more systematic work took place. Ever since the reporting of these discoveries to the Royal Academy of Belgium the following year, the mines have been intensively studied, with major excavation programmes in 1912-14 and continuously since 1953.

Currently the site appears on the surface as a large area of meadows and fields strewn with millions of scraps of worked flint. Underground the site is an immense network of galleries linked to the surface by vertical shafts dug by Neolithic man. The authenticity of the Neolithic flint mines of Spiennes is total. Many have never been excavated and those which are open to the public are in their original condition, with the exception of some modern shoring and props for security reasons.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The period when Spiennes developed large-scale flint mining, using techniques which may be termed preindustrial, is known as a result of radiocarbon dating of organic materials such as charcoal, bone, and antler, and also from the artefacts abandoned in the mines or workshops, such as pottery or cord for binding antler tools. Underground flint mining was taking place there from the second half of the 5th millennium BCE (between 4400 and 4200 BCE), making Spiennes one of the oldest mining sites in Europe. Several dates show that mining activity went on, apparently without interruption, throughout the whole 4th millennium and even during the first half of the 3rd millennium BCE, ie from the beginning of the Middle Neolithic until the Late Neolithic period.

However, because of the extent of the site it is not yet possible for each mining area to be individually dated. Camp-à-Cayaux and Petit-Spiennes have, however, produced similar dating and so the two plateaux were probably being mined contemporaneously. Dating is under way for the mining sector at the Versant de la Wampe.

However, on both plateaux, different mines intersect one another, showing that there were successive mining phases. At Petit-Spiennes, for example, new shafts were sunk around 3000 BCE in an area which had already been mined between 4400 and 4000 BCE.

The considerable number of artefacts discovered at Spiennes, and more particularly the pottery, give a fairly precise picture of which human groups were engaged in underground flint mining. Other groups have left at times abundant traces, but the reasons for their presence are more difficult to interpret.

The earliest Neolithic remains at Spiennes are two adzes characteristic of the Neolithic Rubané Culture, dating from the second half of the 6th millennium BCE. However, these are surface finds and cannot be taken as evidence that flint was being mined at Spiennes at that time.

Most of the pottery discovered in the flint mining structures and in the workshops and the upper parts of filled-in shafts is characteristic of the Michelsberg Culture. This covers a large area from central Germany to the Rhineland, Belgium, and northern France. It flourished between the last third of the 5th millennium and the middle of the 4th millennium BCE. Broken pottery found at the bottom of shafts shows clearly that it was left there by the miners themselves before the shafts were filled in.

So far as the Late Neolithic is concerned, although the radiocarbon dates suggest that mining went on, no pottery characteristic of the Seine-Oise-Marne Culture (a local group from the first half of the 3rd millennium BCE) has yet been found. The use of axes with splayed blades suggests that they were made from Spiennes flint during the transition between the Late Neolithic and the Bronze Age.

Spiennes was also important during the Metal Ages. Remains probably linked to settlements can be attributed to the Late Bronze Age (8th or 7th century BCE) and the Second (La Tène) Iron Age. At this period the nature of human occupation therefore changed. However, flint was still being used for toolmaking by these peoples. The Late Bronze Age finds include a stone-working workshop, demonstrating that local flint was still being worked on the site. It is not known how the Late Bronze Age craftsmen obtained the local flint - whether by small-scale extraction or scavenging the many pieces of debris left by previous occupations.

Many pits in the La Tène settlement have been found to contain flint. Here, too, the presence of flint-working debris may well have encouraged the Iron Age people to use this abundant material to make tools.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation