Ancient Mines

Earliest Evidence of Mining and Trade 
     "The flint so obtained, usually in processed form, was an attractive 
commodity exchanged between settlements and regions, sometimes in multiple directions and covering long distances. Several types of flint mined in the Vistula catchment area were distributed more than 400 km away.
     Mining was practiced by the first agricultural communities that appeared in Europe, and their mines have been discovered in Italy, Spain, and Poland. The Defensola “A” mine from the Gargano promontory in Italy dates to the late 6th and early 5th millennium BC, and it demonstrates a rare system of adit mining.Underground exploitation at Spiennes and Rijckholt – St. Geertruid can be dated to the 
latter half of the 5th and the 4th millennium BC, and is affiliated with communities of 
advanced agricultural economies practising animal husbandry on a large scale. Striped 
flint was mined at Krzemionki Opatowskie in the late 4th and the 3rd millennium. Mining activity at Grimes Graves was concentrated around the middle of the 3rd millennium.  
     The latest of the European flint mines was discovered at the “Zele” site at Wierzbica, near Radom in Poland, where shafts were dug as late as the end of the Bronze Age, around 1000 BC.  ....discovery of other similar sites, including Cissubry and Grimes Graves in England, numerous flint mining sites in France, and the Rijckholt – St. Geertruid mine in the Dutch Limburg."

Grime's Graves is a flint mining complex dating to the Neolithic period with the earliest evidence of activity from around 3000 BC. It comprises 433 mineshafts, pits, quarries and spoil dumps which survive as earthworks covering an area of 7.6 hectares. It is one of just ten Neolithic flint mines known to have existed in England, of which six still exist as earthworks. 

Arial View of Grimes Grave Indentations caused back-filled  settling 

The scheduled monument extends over an area of some 37 ha (96 acres) and consists of at least 433 shafts dug into the natural chalk to reach seams of flint. The largest shafts are more than 14 m (40 feet) deep and 12 m in diameter at the surface. It has been calculated that more than 2,000 tonnes of chalk had to be removed from the larger shafts, taking 20 men around five months, before stone of sufficient quality was reached. An upper 'topstone' and middle 'wallstone' seam of flint was dug through on the way to the deeper third 'floorstone' seam which most interested the miners.

In order to remove the chalk efficiently, the ancient miners built wooden platforms and ladders as they dug downwards and piled the spoil around the shaft opening using turf revetments to hold it in place for the season, when the shaft and all its galleries were thoroughly and fastidiously backfilled to promote stability. The landscape around Grime's Graves has a characteristic pockmarked appearance caused by the infilled shafts. This is probably what inspired the later Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of the area to name it after their god Grim (literally the masked, or hooded one, a euphemism for Woden). Although the pagan Anglo-Saxons seem to have had some idea of what the site was, as the name of the site means literally 'The masked one's quarries,' (or Grim's Graben,)

Once they had reached the floorstone flint, the miners dug lateral galleries outwards from the bottom, following the flint seam. The medium-depth shafts yielded as much as 60 tons of flint nodules, which were brought to the surface and roughly worked into shape on site. The blank tools were then possibly traded elsewhere for final polishing. It is estimated that 60 tons of flint could have produced as many as 10,000 of the polished stone axes, which were the mines' main product. Extrapolation across the site suggests that Grime's Graves may have produced around 16-18,000 tonnes of flint across the 433 shafts recorded to date. However, there are large areas of the site covered by later activity which are believed to conceal many more mineshafts.
There were other hard stones used for axe manufacture, those of the Langdale axe industry and Penmaenmawr in North Wales being traded across Europe

Illustration of mining shaft

Map of Underground Mining Burrows
Illustrations courtesy of

Stone Henge
Like so many other sites stone henge lies along ancient trade routes and is at the center of a rather sophisticated mining operations in Enland.  It is likely a Center for Trade and redistribution.  The location on which it sits was ideal for trading goods because the area is  central to the source of three rivers that led to water ways connected to the world.  Sitting neatly between The Thames, the Avon and the Seven Estuary, Stone Henge was at the heart of Neolithic travel and trade routes.  (it is actual only two kilometres from the river Avon near Amesbury).

Worshipping the god of commerce

Comprehensive list of mines

Conclusively the miners were pigment or cosmetic miners. And this has been supported from many sources. Among man's earliest funerary practices was the sprinkling of red ochre on the corpse prior to burial. Digs in Europe , the Middle east and the southern Cape show that this was a standard practice.

There’s a Neanderthal chert mine in Bulgaria, over 40,000 years old, tying with the Lions cave haematite mine in Swazi for the position of oldest known mine.