European Neolithic Mining Practices

Neolithic-mineDuring the Neolithic period, flint was as prized as gold was to the Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists. 4500 years ago, flint miners dug shafts up to 12 meters deep in search of more flint. Ladders and wooden platforms made extracting the ore easier. This task was Herculean as the only picks available were reindeer antler. When a mine was exhausted, a new hole would be dug and the rubble from that hole would be used to back fill the previous mine. Most flint can be found above ground and most of the flint found at Neolithic sites is indeed surface flint so it is unclear why such a massive undertaking was performed as much more readily available sources were freely available. Flint is black in color with a shiny, glass like appearance similar to obsidian. Flint chips easily and is fairly simple to make incredibly sharp by simply cracking off a piece with a harder rock. It’s possible that mine shafts were dug as a ceremonial coming of age tradition in that a prepubescent adolescent would enter into the mine, dig into the depths of the Earth, and then emerge back out as an adult. This theory is backed up by the fact that the majority of miners left their picks in the mine, possibly signifying that they had reached adulthood. It is unclear if these picks were left because they were considered to be spiritually polluted or if they offered their pick as an offering to the Earth itself in exchange for what has been brought to the surface. There is a site in Britain at which over 400 of these mines were dug a few meters from eachother giving the landscape a cratered appearance

Leave a Reply