Within the framework of “Current Archaeological Research in Spain“, organised by the National Archaeological Museum in collaboration with the Palarq Foundation.
It will be held on Tuesday 22 October at 18h in the MAN and attendance is free and free of charge
Casa Montero and the oldest flint mining in the Western Mediterranean is the talk given by Susana Consuegra and Pedro Díaz del Río (Instituto de Historia-CSIC) on Tuesday 22 October at 6 pm in the conference room of the National Archaeological Museum (MAN), within the framework of the cycle “Current Archaeological Research in Spain“ .
Flint is the most widely used raw material for tool production in human history. However, the direct evidence of its extraction is not very abundant. In areas rich in flint, such as Madrid, most of the prehistoric groups were able to collect nodules without resorting to mining, through extraction in quarries or directly from slopes and secondary deposits. It seems that they only resorted to deep mining after the introduction of livestock and agriculture.
The ancient Neolithic flint mines of Casa Montero (c. 5300-5200 BC) are evidence of the oldest deep mining in the western Mediterranean. They are located in Vicálvaro (Madrid) and were discovered in the summer of 2003, when archaeological work was being carried out prior to the construction of the M-50 Madrid ring road. A 1% Cultural project has maintained the research for more than 6 years, with an interdisciplinary team led by the CSIC and made up of more than 59 researchers from 19 institutions and 13 companies.
The mining operation covers a little more than two hectares and consists of around 4000 vertical wells. These were excavated in close proximity to each other in order to optimise their performance once the flint levels had been located at depth. In the interior of each well there was only one person doing the tasks of excavation, extraction of the flint and load of the material to the outside.
On the surface, there were activities of enormous social importance, given that the continuity of the group depended (and depends) to a great extent on the ability to transmit technological knowledge. On the one hand, the extracted flint was carved by reducing the large nodules to nuclei first and then to preforms of sheets. This activity produced huge quantities of flint waste, up to 760 tonnes in total, which were incorporated back into the soil with which the wells were refilled. For the younger generation, the mining events represented an opportunity to learn everything that had to do with flint, from the detection of the best areas to mine, to the rudiments of size or mining work. In addition, many other more everyday tasks were essential for the mining activity, such as the maintenance of tools, the provision and preparation of food or the carrying of water from the nearby Jarama River.
The mines of Casa Montero are one of the first evidences of collective work of our prehistory, a work that radically transformed the environment, leaving a permanent mark on the landscape. We know that the population density during the ancient Neolithic was very low and the groups very small, so the work in the mine required the seasonal cooperation of a good number of them. The information obtained during the excavation indicates that mining events occurred over a few generations, perhaps no more than 5 and probably in spring.
Last mining episode in Casa Montero. Illustration: Juan M. Álvarez Cebrián
On the website of the Casa Montero Project www.casamontero.org we have created a virtual space for everyone, affordable and interesting. In the section ‘Discover Casa Montero‘ you will be able to take a walk through the site since only the mastodons of the Tertiary Age were walking through it until today.
If you want to know Casa Montero in detail, ‘El yacimiento’ ‘La Investigación’ and ‘La mina de flint’ will allow you to get closer to the precise information of many aspects. We have highlighted some information on very particular and varied matters to go deeper into them: A pond full of life, The bones speak, Pedernal for Madrid, and many others contain specialized data and observations on the subject treated.
Finally, the SÍLEX Spatial Data Infrastructure, although open to as many people as wish to investigate it, is designed so that specialists can access qualitative and quantitative information from the archaeological register and Casa Montero material, generate their own queries and manage the data according to their interests.
Dr. Pedro Díaz-del-Río y Dra. Susana Consuegra
Investigadores del CSIC en el Instituto de Historia