Krzemionki Opatowskie - Neolithic Flint Mines, Sudół
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Krzemionki Opatowskie - Neolithic Flint Mines

Sudół

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Krzemionki Opatowskie is an archaeological reserve which lies 6 km north-east of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. The flint mines located here were in use from the New Stone Age (Neolithic) to the Bronze Age, in the years 3000-1600 bc. It is possible that the striped flint deposits may have been known even earlier to Mesolithic hunters. Those areas from which the striped flint was excavated can be seen at the reserve. Flint is a sedimentary rock consisting of chalcedony mixed with quartz grains, clay particles, calcium carbonate and opal. It occurs in limestone deposits in the form of solitary concretions measuring several to several dozen centimetres.

The mines represent the largest and best preserved site of this type in the world. They are notable for their size and scientific value, and above all for the range and nature of archaeological research and innovative conservation solutions implemented there. They greatly surpass other mines, such as Grimes Graves (England), Grand Pressigny (France), Ryckhold-St. Geertruid (Holland), and Spiennes (Belgium).

The roughly parabola-shaped mining field occupies a strip of land some 30-180 m wide over a distance of 5 km. Approximately 4000 shafts with a network of tunnels covering many kilometres have been recorded within the mine area. The extant underground chambers, partially filled with gangue, revealed discarded mining equipment, tool remnants and rock art evidencing past beliefs. The latter include symbols drawn in charcoal probably representing a Mother Goddess. Depending on its depositional depth, flint was extracted either from simple, shallow pits or from deep shafts (up to 9 m). A type of shelter was erected above each shaft to provide protection against rain and snowfall. Prehistoric mining involved the use of stone and flint mattocks, antler wedges and levers. The mines were probably worked by specialised groups of miners and flintknappers who had the appropriate geological and technological expertise. The height of the subterranean mining area ranges from 55 to 120 cm, meaning that all tasks had to be carried out either kneeling or lying down. Working conditions were further exacerbated by low temperatures (5-9ºC) and high humidity. The passages and work areas were lit using torches made from resinous wood, which provided adequate light with little smoke. Initial sorting of the extracted material was carried out underground and only the best quality flint was brought to the surface. Further selection and preliminary processing of the flint took place in the immediate vicinity of the shaft. The extracted flint nodules were made into polished axes or were distributed further afield in the form of initially prepared product blanks.

These flint deposits were of huge significance to the peoples of Central Europe. This is borne out by the discovery of axes made of striped flint from Krzemionki at sites up to 600 km away, in the present-day territories of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Germany. Flint axes were used for woodworking, for forest clearance and for creating new fields for crop cultivation. In the early Bronze Age (c. 2200-1600 bc) striped flint was also used for making arrowheads.

Systematic research has been conducted in and around the mines ever since their discovery in 1922 by the geologist Jan Samsonowicz. Extant original features, such as shaft craters and spoil heaps reflect the nature and intensity of extraction work at Krzemionki. To safeguard the site, its surrounding area (381 hectares) was declared a reserve, also providing protection for relict xerothermic plants.

General information

  • Type: archaeological monument
  • Chronology: 3900 - 1600 BC
  • Form of protection: history monument
  • Address: Sudół 135 a
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district ostrowiecki, commune Bodzechów
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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