Rijckholt Prehistoric Flint Mine

Visit the remains of the oldest mining activity in the Netherlands in the Savelsbos forest near Rijckholt. Between 6,200 and 4,700 years ago, prehistoric humans extracted flints from the yellowish-white limestone here. They used the flint to make weapons and tools. In 1881, a Belgian archaeologist Marcel de Puydt discovered the mines.

To see at Rijckholt Flint Mine

Our Neolithic ancestors made narrow vertical shafts to extract the flint from the subsurface. Between 1964 and 1972, archaeologists constructed a new 150-metre tunnel for scientific purposes. As a result, the flint mine can now be visited . Go to the flint mine’s website for more information. The prehistoric mining complex covers 8 hectares and has more than 2,000 mine shafts. In the mines, you can see carving marks of prehistoric man. The black flint nodules they mined can still be seen in many places in the yellowish-white limestone.

Flint owes its name to the sparks that fly when two pieces are struck together hard. You can try this out at home (but make sure to wear safety goggles!). Our prehistoric ancestors learned to work flint to make weapons and tools. They first started extracting it from the slopes here. But when their initial source became exhausted, they started mining it. They knew exactly what kind of flint they were looking for: when they dug the shafts in Rijckholt, they skipped layers with flint of inferior quality. Neolithic flint mines have also been discovered elsewhere in southern Limburg and Europe, for example in Belgium, Great Britain, and Poland.

Visit the flint mine Rijckholt

You can visit the prehistoric flint mines as part of an organised excursion. A guide will take you on a walk from the village of Rijckholt to the mine, while telling you about geology, the landscape, and archaeology. At the mine, you will be able to visit the prehistoric underground tunnels. The excursion lasts 2 to 2.5 hours and features a lot of forest walking. In the Savelsbos forest, you can also visit the Henkeput, and  ‘Grindgroeve Savelsbos’  (gravel pit in the Savelsbos forest).

Practical information

Geology in brief

The limestone in which the prehistoric mines are carved was deposited some 68 million years ago in a shallow sea, where the famous marine mosasaur also lived. Chemical processes led to the creation of flint nodules in the limestone. Silica from, for example, sponge needles dissolved in the limestone and concentrated in flint nodules. 

Geological structure

The limestone is part of the Gulpen Formation. The Lanaye limestone is located at the top of that formation. It contains large black flint nodules in this area.

More about this hotspot