UNESCO adds ancient Polish mine region to list of World Heritage Sites

The flint mining museum in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. Piotr Polak/PAP

At the 43rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, being held in Baku, Azerbaijan, Poland's Krzemionki prehistoric striped flint mining region was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage Site List.

News of the Krzemionki Opatowskie region being added to the World Heritage Site List has been released on the United Nation's Twitter page.

Krzemionki Opatowskie, situated in the Świętokrzyskie province in southern Poland, is home to an area of prehistoric striped flint mines and settlements.

The whole area, named the Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region, was nominated by Poland at the beginning of 2018 to be considered for addition to the World Heritage Site List. In September of last year an expert from the UNESCO advisory body, ICOMOS (The International Council on Monuments and Sites) visited Krzemionki. In the spring of this year ICOMOS, on the basis of the expert's findings, presented UNESCO with a positive recommendation for adding the region to the list. Such an opinion is not binding for UNESCO.

The prehistoric mining region lies on the north-eastern edge of the Świętokrzyskie mountain range in the counties of Ostrowiec and Opatów. The region covers an area of 349.2 hectares and is made up of four parts: the main mining area in Krzemionki, the two smaller mines of "Borowina" and "Korycizna" - which lie along the same geological seam, and the prehistoric miners permanent settlement in Gawroniec, where the inhabitants would work the flint brought from the mines.

The Krzemionki striped flint mines were discovered in 1922 by the Ostrowiec-born geologist Professor Jan Samsonowicz. It was quickly recognised as a historical treasure. Since 1994 it has had the status of a historical monument and from 1995 the area has been designated a nature reserve.

The mines date back to the early Stone Age and the early Bronze Age and functioned between 4000BC and 2000BC. In Krzemionki there are around 4,000 shafts, up to nine metres deep, where striped flint was mined from the limestone rock. The shafts are connected by a network of walkways. The flint was used for the production of simple tools such as axeheads.

Deputy Director of Poland's National Heritage Institute Mariusz Czuba, during a February visit to Krzemionki, emphasised that the area is "absolutely the most important archaeological site in Poland, one of the most important in the world."