Mount Saint Peter
|Mount Saint Peter|
The picture shows a Wallonian section of Mount Saint Peter, as seen from the east in the Netherlands. The Albert Canal can be seen cutting through the ridge, and the Lanaye locks on the Meuse are in the foreground.
|Elevation||120 m (394 ft)|
Mount Saint Peter (Sint-Pietersberg in Dutch, Montagne Saint-Pierre in French) is a ridge running north to south between the valleys of the Geer to the west, and the Meuse to the east. It runs from Maastricht in the Netherlands, through Riemst in Belgian Limburg almost to the city of Liège in Belgium, thus defining the topography of this border area between Flanders, Wallonia and the Netherlands. It has been cut through in modern times, in order to link the Belgian Albert Canal to the Meuse.
Principal characteristics 
Mount Saint Peter's limestone composition, its deposits of flint nodules and its geographic position make it a remarkable place. The locale has been mined for flint from Neolithic times. The network of mining tunnels extended 200 kilometres (120 mi) by the 19th century. The mountain supports the richest environment for bats in Benelux, as well as the richest environment for orchids in Benelux. Some of the first recognised reptile fossils among which the famous Mosasaurus and turtles were found here in the 18th century; later dinosaur remains were discovered also, belonging to Betasuchus and Orthomerus.
The plateau of Caestert, which is within the part of Mount Saint Peter that is contained in the Flemish municipality of Riemst, shows evidence of an Iron Age fort, and is one of the strongest contenders for being the fort of the Eburones, named Atuatuca, and which played an important role in Julius Caesar's commentaries on his wars in Gaul. Dendrochronological evidence was once thought to count against this proposal, but more recent review of the evidence has reinvigorated the idea.
The mountain's height and strategic location made it the site of Fort Eben-Emael in the twentieth century. This was the major artillery defence point in the Belgian defences against any invading forces coming from Nazi Germany. At the opening of the war, the entire installation was taken quickly by a relatively small number of German paratroopers.
At Mount Saint Peter the Geer (Jeker in Dutch) and the Meuse rivers have cut into the limestone plateau known in the east as the Herve plateau and in the west as Hesbaye. The succeeding geologic layers include loess, gravel, quartz sand and chalky limestone of the Maastricht Formation with inclusions of flint. The chalk deposits contain numerous fossils of sea urchins, clams and belemnites.
The mountain is bounded on the east by the Meuse and on the west by the Geer. The Albert Canal cuts the mountain in two for 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) in length and 65 metres (213 ft) in depth at the Casters cutting. The Lanaye locks at the end of the cutting permit boats to pass to the Meuse basin from the Juliana Canal and the Rhine. To the east the course of the Meuse has been altered, creating backwaters and old channels.
Because of its limestone soil, the Mount Saint Peter is exceptional in its botanical variety. It is the northern limit for a number of species of orchids due to its favorable microclimate. Some of the orchids found there include:
- Aceras anthropophorum
- Ophrys apifera
- Ophrys insectifera
- Orchis militaris
- Orchis purpurea
- Platanthera bifolia
Humans have used the site since the lower Paleolithic period. The area around Spiennes is known for its flint mines. Marl has been quarried in the area for building stone. Limestone continues to be quarried for portland cement production. Abandoned quarries are used to dispose of ashes from municipal waste incinerators.
- This article incorporates text translated from the corresponding French Wikipedia article as of November 4, 2010.
- "Nature sans frontieres". Montagne Saint-Pierre (in French). Regionaal Landschap Haspengouw vzw. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
- Caesar, Gallic War
- Wightman, Edith Mary (1985), Gallia Belgica, University of California Press
- Vanderhoeven, Alain; Vanderhoeven, Michel (2004), "Confrontation in Archaeology: Aspects of Roman Military in Tongeren", in Vermeulen, Frank; Sas, Kathy; Thoen, Hugo et al., Archaeology in confrontation: aspects of Roman military presence in the northwest, Ghent University, p. 143
- Vanvinckenroye, Willy (2001), "Über Atuatuca, Cäsar und Ambiorix", Belgian archaeology in a European setting 2
- Dunstan, Simon (2005). Fort Eben Emael: The Key to Hitler's Victory in the West. Osprey. p. 12. ISBN 1-84176-821-9.
- "Neolithic Flint Mines of Petit-Spiennes : Official web site". Retrieved 2007-12-16.