Historical iron mining on the Eisenberg in Brilon

In the late summer of 2010 we carried out a mining archaeology study of medieval mining activity in the area of the Eisenberg (municipality of Olsberg, North Rhine-Westphalia). The aim was to explore the earliest phase of the late-medieval to modern extraction of iron, within the framework of an EU LEADER project.

The later phases were well documented with archival material, but the beginnings were unclear. The project, started in collaboration with the Olsberger Heimatbund (local history association) and the municipality, was integrated into a regional funding programme to create a walking trail to different mining sites.
The research focused on the mouth of the old adit with the attached waste heap, and the area of sinkholes with the accompanying waste heaps: in total, there are 29 cavity structures, of which 25 objects can be assigned to the actual sinkhole area. We also carried out an archaeological inspection of a 22 m x 13 m area. The striking find here was a single open shaft mouth, 2 m deep, which was surrounded by a fence and covered with reinforced steel mesh (shaft 1).
The stratigraphic observations of both the geological strata and archaeological finds from the excavation area suggest that there were several periods of operation. What is striking here is that the whole excavation area was largely devoid of finds. Pieces of haematite were found, however, especially in the waste heap of shaft 1. We can therefore presume that the shaft was used for extraction – but it may also have been used for ventilation, prospecting or divining.


Gero Steffens


Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum


City of Olsberg, (Leader programme „Eisenstraße Olsberg“)


Olsberger Heimatbund

Municipality of Olsberg

LWL-Archäologie, Olpe