Small tools from St. Geertruid (NL)

The Rijckholt Flint Mines near St.Geertruid in South Limburg (NL) are known for the Neolithic period, especially for the exploitation of  mined flint during the Michelsberg Culture (ca 4000 BC- 2600 BC).
Like elsewhere in Limburg, I collected near St. Geertruid over a long period ( 2004- 2009) lots of small lithic artifacts with small to very small dimensions ( < 2 cm cross cut for flakes, or blades. blade- fragments wide < 12mm), hoping to find the Mesolithic in the artifact spectrum.
 It appeared the Mesolithic could be established for several  new locations in the region.
The Mesolithic in South Limburg was already noticed  by Hamal -Nandrin, when he visited and sampled the plateau at St. Geertruid. (Hamal -Nandrin & Servais, 1923 ). In the published book of 1923 (pp 4156/72) we find images of trapezes, some blades and small round retouched scrapers 417/73).
These artifacts, mentioned in the book , aredescribed as being made of the grey Ryckholt type flint such as we notice in the highest elevations e.g. at the locus "VRAP" (Arbannig) near St. Geertruid. This is not the black mined type of flint, but the eluvium flint type, found at the highest parts of the hills ( + 120 m. and higher)  around the current ravine and the wide environment,
 The small tools collected at an eroded surface at  St. Geertruid, made of Rijckholt flint, do not only fit in a ( late-) Mesolithic tradition, where the small blades were transformed into desired end- products like arrow-points, tool segments, composed scrapers, etc, but it looks like there has been some kind of ''standard' production, i.c. the making of small blades with the  purpose to use them elsewhere ( export?).
This  assumption was based on  small concentrations of  regular produced small blades,  found near Rijckholt  Similar blanks were found  near the eluvium flint - excavation pits at Rullen in Belgium.

Small blades, with a wide of less than 1 cm ( 1 square = 0,5 mm), in  large  quantities,  found in some concentrations at Rullen, Belgium

The small blades, found near Rijckholt,  were found together with more large tools ( blades, flakes), regular for   the Neolithic period.At the same place some burned flint was found, indicating the possibility  there were controlled fires ( herds) near the tool production activities.

 Micro-blades made of Rijckholt flint found near St. Geertruid. The blades are probably made in a direct percussion technique, using a soft hammerstone, such as a limestone hammer. This is based on the micro debris and the regular very thin blades found at the same location.

In the French Lorraine, in the Moselle region ( ca 240 km to the south) around the agglomeration of Thionville, Late- Mesolithic artifacts were found in small assemblages, where small blades of the (black)  Rijckholt flint type occur (see image below).

Two Mesolithic micro- blades made of Rijckholt flint, found by J-Y Ringenbach in the region around Thionville (F)

It is important to emphasize that both the finds from St. Geertruid in The Netherlands ( found in a concentration)  and the finds from the region around Thionville in France ( found in a Mesolithic assemblage) are surface finds, which means the artifacts do not come from a regular archaeological context ( stratigraphical related context).   So, at first, the assumed Late -Mesolithic period  for produced bladelets near St. Geertruid is based on the ( regular) production  of micro- blades ( noticed by the prepared platforms,finds of small cores with negatives), in combination with  finds of small trapeze forms. In France, the find location is  of the Late -Mesolithic period It is known that during the Neolithic period, especially during the period of the Michelsberg Culture, flint from the Dutch Rijckholt flint mines,, from the Belgian Hesbaye and Rullen regions was exported ( negotiated?) to the French Lorraine region, as already
about 5000 BC, during the LBK period in our regions, the Rijckholt flint was already distributed to the French  Lorraine region ( Schimmelpfennig, 2011, 79: fig 59).
It is possible, that eluvium flint from flint -mine sites like Rijckholt, Banholt in The Netherlands and  Rullen in Belgium were used for some kind of (standardized)  production of micro- blades to be transported and used in the wider region.
This could have happened already during the Late -Mesolithic, or during the transitional phase to the Neolithic. On the other hand, this could also reflect the more intense relations between hunter- gatherer cultures and  the new Early Neolithic settlers in the region.( Linear Band Keramik, LBK or eLBK in the Rhine valley). In this way, it could either be an adaptation for the traditional local hunter- gatherers to use the flint mines for  the production of their basic stone equipment, or an integrated part of the Early Neolithic - tool assemblage for hunting purposes. Such small tools were also found e.g. in the Rhine basin at Bruchenbrücken in Germany ( Gronenborn, 1999).
- Regular small - blade production, with blades < 1cm wide were noticed at locations of Rijckholt (NL) and Rullen (B)
- Such small blades fit in a nomadic lifestyle, such as was common during the late Mesolithic
- Some small blades of the Rijckholt flint type were found in Lorraine, France, in a Mesolithic context suggesting this small type blades were diffused over more than 250 km during the Mesolithic
- The production of such tools could be either an indication for use during the Late Mesolithic or the transitional phase with the Neolithic, or indicate a simultaneously use of such small blades during the Mesolithic ( by hunter- gatherers, or Neolithic farmers that used them for hunting purposes).

The slight difference between debris and artifacts is very well visible in this image. Above (Neolithic) flint production waste ( debris) and below  retouched artifacts from the same or previous period ; this explains why such tools on flakes and small bladelets often are overlooked

With thanks to Jean-Yves Ringenbach for showing me several artifacts from the Thionville region in France.

References / internet

Gronenborn D.  (1999) A Variation on a Basic Theme: The Transition to Farming in Southern Central Europe Journal of World Prehistory, Volume 13, Number 2, June 1999 

Gronenborn, D. ( 2003) Migration, acculturation and culture change in western TemperateEurasia, 6500 - 5000 cal BC Documenta  Prehistoriae XXX

Fisher, L.Y  (2006) Blades and microliths: Changing contexts of tool production from Magdalenian to Early Mesolithic in southern Germany Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Vol. 25, Iss.2; abstract by Science Direct
Hamal-Nandrin,J &  Servais J.  (1923)   La Station néolithique de Sainte-Gertrude (Limbourg hollandais) Nourry ( copy) 
Lüning, J. ( 1997)  Ein Siedlungsplatz der ältesten Bandkeramik in Bruchenbrücken, Stadt Friedberg/Hessen (Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäologie) Habelt
Marks, A.E. ,. Hietala, H.J.  &. Williams, J.K. (2001) Tool Standardization in the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic: a Closer Look PDF  Cambridge Archaeological Journal 11:1 , 17–44

Schimmelpfennig, D ( 2011Circulation du silex Belgo-Néerlandais ; dans Hauzeur, A., Jadin, I. et Jungels, C. « 5000 ans avant Jésus-Christ, la grande migration ? », collections du Patrimoine Culturel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles

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