Southern Dutch-Limburg and surroundings

(In part adapted from Groenendijk & de Warrimont 1995 and Arora & Franzen 1987a)
Geographical setting: Already during the Tertiary, the top levels of the chalk-formations were partly eroded, leaving a lag-deposit of up to 10 meters in thickness, rich in flint (known as "Eluvial flint"). On many of the plateaus and hill-tops this deposit lays at or near the surface, showing eluvial flint in great quantities when the löss-cover is thin or absent.

The Meuse river, and its tributaries, cut through both the lag-deposits and the underlaying chalk, eventually leaving relatively deep brook- and river-valleys with steep walls. The flint-nodules in river-sediments are known as "Terrace flint", and were deposited both within the region (locally overlaying the eluvial deposits, or building terraces some dozens of kilometers further downstream) and at long distance in the river delta, where it surfaces locally mainly in the Quaternary ("Saalian") ice-pushed ridges.

Extractability and use: The chalk contains several levels of flint nodules (near Maastricht, up to 40 such layers have been reported by Felder 1980), several of which were mined in prehistory, and nearly all outcrops of flint-nodules in the walls of river- and brook-valleys are accompanied by probable extraction-sites.

The eluvial flint shows little mechanical erosion (still showing a rather coarse or "raw" cortex), and is therefore considered of rather good quality.

The terrace flint, especially at larger distances from the source, has been extensively rolled and typically shows a blueish dark-gray, smooth but finely-cracked weathered surface. The quality of the flint however is still good and it was used extensively in prehistoric times throughout the southern part of the Netherlands, much of Belgium and part of Westfalia.

Similarities and differences: Material from the region can roughly be divided into two groups, where the predominantly used flints from the southwestern region (Rijckholt, Rullen) show a dull gloss on freshly struck flakes, are fine-grained and show characteristic intrusions in the form of lighter-coloured dots and spots.

The main difference between the material from Rijckholt and Rullen is their respective colour; Rijckholt is (blueish) dark gray (sometimes very similar indeed to material from the Henegauwen- and Mons-regions in Belgium), while Rullen is brownish-gray or honey-coloured.

Flints from the northeastern region on the other hand (Valkenburg, Simpelveld, Vetschau/Orsbach & Lousberg) are typically mat, coarse-grained, and rarely show spotted intrusions. Among these, Valkenburg-type flint is typically homogeneously coloured, having lighter shades than the others, rangeing from creme to light blueish gray.

The main characteristic of Simpelveld-type flint is its laminated or banded colouring, best visible when flakes are wet or patinated.

Material from the Aachener region (Lousberg & Vetschau/Orsbach) is in its core mainly dark-gray whith a greenish or blueish colour-tone, showing a brown discolouration several millimeters deep from the cortex. The main difference between Lousberg-type flint and the material from Vetschau/Orsbach lies in the shape of the nodules; nodules (plates) from Lousberg are flat, with a regular and even surface, whereas nodules from Vetschau/Orsbach are more amorphous.

Other types of flint: The above descriptions are based on the predominantly used (mined) types of flint from the respective locations. At nearly all sites other types of flint, apart from the already mentioned eluvial and terrace flint, are available in the chalk-formations as well. These are often in the form of very dark brown to black flint, very fine-grained and highly translucent, similar to material from e.g. Calais or the Baltic region. Since the geological presence of this fine-grained flint is hardly ever reported, archaeological finds thereof in nearby sites are often ascribed to long-distance imports. At the moment there is no conclusive way to distinguish the dark, fine-grained and transparent flints from different sources.

Last modified on:
February 11, 2000
Contents primarily by:
Paul van der Kroft
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