Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis: Mining in the region is centuries older than previously known

The news that Roman legionaries were already mining lead and silver ore on the Lüderich shortly after the birth of Christ was a sensation a few years ago. It is now certain that the history of mining in the region is several centuries older. This is proven by mining tools that have been in the Bergisches Museum for Mining, Crafts and Trades in Bensberg for decades, although little was known about their age.

Two spades, each made of oak in one piece, have provided evidence that mining was already being carried out on Lüderich in pre-Christian times. They belong to a collection of a total of 24 historical mining tools (teeth) that were found in the course of industrial mining from earlier mining eras that began around 1850 on the Lüderich.

Findings for mining history throughout the region

A dating as part of a project funded by the Rhineland Regional Council (LVR) showed that the two spades were created between 350 and 50 BC, in the Iron Age, says the head of the Overather branch of the LVR office for soil conservation, Dr. Jens Berthold. Until now, it was assumed that the tools came from the 9th to 12th centuries AD.

A wooden trough with metal fittings from the period after 1500.

Berthold could hardly believe the results of the investigation at first, but comparative analyzes confirmed the values: “These dates” extend “the mining history on Lüderich once again by several centuries, which was neither foreseeable nor hoped for,” says the archaeologist, explaining the importance of the new findings for the mining history not only in the Bensberg ore district, but in the entire Rhineland. “The Bergisches Museum for Mining, Crafts and Trades can really boast about that,” says Berthold. “Cologne doesn’t have anything like that.”

Re-examinations date tools older

And even in the German Mining Museum in Bochum, one looks at the collection of historical tools with envy, 14 of which have now been re-examined, assumes Peter Schönfeld. The archaeologist had already started the archaeological excavations at the end of the 1990s through a find in the root ball of a fallen tree not far from Bleifeld, through which the Roman mining on the Lüderich was proven not far from the former south shaft.


Already around 350 to 50 BC these spades were being used in mining on Lüderich. (From left) Museum director Sandra Brauer and the archaeologists Dr. Jens Berthold (branch of the LVR Office for Monument Preservation) and Peter Schönfeld.


Christopher Arlinghaus Christoph

And he kept a close eye on the fact that a few years ago, on the initiative of the recently deceased mining expert Herbert Ommer, the Bergisches Museum’s friends’ association initially had four tools from the collection examined. At that time it turned out that a leather transport sack, a so-called bulge, was centuries older than previously assumed and already came from the Carolingian era in the early Middle Ages.

C14 dating determines the age of the materials

“A uniquely well-preserved piece that can be seen here in the museum and is certainly one of the top 100 in Germany,” says Berthold. The project of the LVR Office for Ground Monument Preservation then followed up on the results, in which the archaeologists Berthold and Schönfeld, together with Ursula Tegtmeier from the University of Cologne, who specializes in wood finds, and the leather find expert Christian Schumacher, now re-examined 14 tools.


Unique: the leather transport sack dates from the early Middle Ages.

With the help of a radiological analysis, in which the age of the materials is determined on the basis of the decay of atoms that are embedded in dead organic materials such as wood or leather (C14 dating), other tools in addition to the Iron Age spades were identified for the early Middle Ages and the High Middle Ages, which had previously also been considered to be significantly younger.

Museum director Sandra Brauer is pleased about the increased importance of the collection, which is to be presented in a completely new way as part of the planned reorganization of the museum. An exciting challenge. After all, who, for example, was mining in the Iron Age on Lüderich?


Such shovel blades were used 1000 years ago.

“In any case, it was a society that was primarily concerned with agriculture and cattle breeding, but which also had larger settlements and, if necessary, during the season, when there was not so much to do in agriculture, it mined metal ore and extracted metal from it,” says Berthold. “Of course, you can’t tell from the tools whether it was Celts or Teutons who worked with the spade,” says the archaeologist. However, there is also an Iron Age ring wall and barrows on the Lüderich.

Devices were probably left behind

The spade could have been used to shovel overburden or broken iron ore, for example in transport containers, according to the archaeologists.

Why are the tools so well preserved? When the equipment is no longer in use, it must be hermetically sealed and spilled in a damp environment or left in abandoned pits. When the mining industry on the Lüderich was completely re-expanded in the 19th century, the tools found in older mining pits were collected by the mining company Vieille Montagne.

The surveyor (surveyor) Wilhelm Mangold finally handed over the collection to the Bensberg local history museum in 1935. This later became the Bergisches Museum, which is now run by the city and which the new findings on the tools, which are more than 2000 years old, once again attest to a significance that extends far beyond the region.

Source: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger – Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger by www.ksta.de.

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