The Neolithic flint mines of Spiennes are among the largest and earliest Neolithic flint mines of north-western Europe, located close to Walloon village of Spiennes. The mines were active during the mid and late Neolithic (4300–2200 BC).
The mines occupy two chalk plateaux located to the south-east of the city of Mons. They cover an area essentially devoted to agriculture. The site appears on the surface as a large area of meadows and fields strewn with millions of scraps of worked flint. Underground, the site is an immense network of galleries linked to the surface by vertical shafts dug by Neolithic populations.
The Spiennes flint Mines are the largest and earliest concentration of ancient mines of north-west Europe. The mines were in operation for many centuries and the remains vividly illustrate the development and adaptation of mining techniques employed by prehistoric populations in order to exploit large deposits of a material that was essential for the production of tools and cultural evolution generally. They are also remarkable by the diversity of technical mining solutions implemented and by the fact that they are directly linked to a habitat contemporary to them.
In the Neolithic period, (from the last third of the 5th millennium until the first half of the 3rd millennium), the site was the centre of intensive flint mining present underground. Different techniques were used, the most spectacular and characteristic of which was the digging out of shafts of 0.8 to 1.20m in diameter with a depth down to 16 metres. Neolithic populations could thus pass below levels made up of large blocks of flint (up to 2m in length) that they extracted using a particular technique called ‘striking’ (freeing from below with support of a central chalk wall, shoring up of the block, removal of the wall, removal of the props and lowering of the block). The density of the shafts is important, as many as 5,000 in the zone called Petit Spiennes (14 ha), leading to criss-crossing of pits and shafts in some sectors.
Stone-working workshops were associated with these mining shafts as is witnessed by numerous fragments of flint still present on the surface and which give its name to a part of the site, Camp à Cayaux (Stone Field). Essentially the production aimed at the manufacture of axes to fell trees and long blades to be transformed into tools. The standardisation of the production bears witness to the highly skilled craftsmanship of the stone-cutters of the flint of Spiennes. The vestiges of a fortified camp have also been discovered at the site comprising two irregular concentric pits at a distance of 5 to 10m. The archaeological artefacts discovered are characteristic of the Michelsberg culture discovered in the mining sector.
The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 2000.References:
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.
According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.
In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.
The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.
The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.
In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.
The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.