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Polish Banded Flint

Material name: Banded flint
Synonyms: Striped flint, Striped/Banded flint from the Holy Cross Mountains
Material (geologic): Jurassic flint

detail from a sample
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999

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General characteristics

(More references will be added on the next update)

Material: Like the name already suggests, this material is characterized by a banded or striped colouring. We collected three different types of material, but were unable to find clear references in the literature about these types and their occurrences. The main type seems to be a relatively dark material with more or less concentric bands, like the banded material we sampled at Skarbka and you can see in the walls of the Krzemionki flint mine The second main type is a material you could describe as 'stratigrafical' with bands cutting another, like in the sample from Środborze. The third type is oolithic in structure and much less banded, like the second type from Skarbka. In the literature it is mostly mentioned only fleetingly as inferior material, although I found it quite knappable, despite an internal fracture in the nodule I extracted. It seems that, like in a number of other flint types, patination brings out the banding in stones that would normally appear quite homogeneous.
Colour: Like described above, there are several varieties of this type of flint, each with different colouring schemes. The darker, concentric material is mostly darkish brown with light brown bands. The main variety, however, is grey to brownish grey with white bands.
Patination of originally banded pieces renders the darker, finer parts opaque, but without obliterating the internal structure (see below).
Other information: Banded flint comes from a large (10 x 40 kilometres), but well defined area on the northern fringes of the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) Mountains in Małopolska (Little Poland), between the towns of Iłża en Ożarów.
It occurs in two beds, 0.7-3.0 meters apart in limestone of the higher Upper Oxfordian (Borkowski & Budziszewski)
Knapping notes: We didn't have much of a chance yet to experiment with the material, but a little testing shows it to be of good to very good quality. All varieties are easily formed into (pre)cores from which blades can be detached quite easily. The fractures are, even with the oolithic variety, smooth and the platforms don't splinter or crush easily. Edges are sharp, with some types slightly jagged, but can be, depending on the zonation, quite weak. For the use of the internal structures in knapping banded flint, see Michniak & Budziszewski
Archaeological description: Like all types of good flint, it is used extensively throughout the whole prehistory. The oldest finds date to the Middle Paleolithic with an increased utilisation during the Upper Paleolithic. In the Late Paleolithic and Mesolithic banded flint is hardly used due to the extreme preference for 'chocolate flint' in these periods.
During the Neolithic this picture changes dramatically. After hardly any use in the Early Neolithic, it is heavily relied on in the Funnel Beaker Culture (TRB, Trichterbecher), but only regionally (Borkowski & Budziszewski).
The widest distribution is attained during the Late Neolithic when the bearers of the Globular Amphora Culture (GAC or KAK from the German Kugelamphorenkultur) export this material, mainly in the form of polished flint axes, over hunderds of kilometres.
After this time, well into the Bronze Age, exploitation of outcrops and mines is still intense, but again more confined.
Many mines and extraction points are known, the largest and most famous of which is Krzemionki, but at least half a dozen others are known, and many more to be suspected (5000 Jahre Feuersteinbergbau).


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Skarbka

Locality: Skarbka, Kielce district
Synonyms: see above. There seems to be no differentiation between the different varieties of banded flint in the literature. Toponyms are used to differentiated between the different extraction-sites
Geographic description: Disused quarry, directly north of road number 754 along the Kamienna river between Bałtó and Pętkowice.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 51 00' 37" N
Long. 021 34' 01" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Co-ordinate precision: Taken at the exposure with a GPS, relatively clear horizons, so the precision will be quite alright
Other topographical information: As you will probably have been visiting the flint mines in the Krzemionki Archaeological Reserve, you take a right turn as you come to the main road again (road number 754). You follow this road in the direction of Lublin for about 8 kilometres. After coming through Bałtó it is about another three kilometres before you see the disused quarry at your left side. Turn into the track and leave your car here.
Additional information: Flint nodules in situ
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
  As the sample site is a disused quarry, care should be taken for falling rocks. Several of the faces did seem a bit unstable and judging by the very large blocks lying directly underneath, the risk of falling stones should not be underestimated.
As this is one of the few accessible outcrops of the Krzemionki-type, please don't go hammering like mad on the few exposed nodules and restrict yourself to already dislodged material. And as always: don't be greedy and do not take more than strictly needed.
Visitors information: Accomodation in the immediate vicinity seems to be a bit of a problem. We stayed in a small hotel (of which there are several) in Sandomierz, a well preserved small town on the banks of the Vistula. Although it is a 25 kilometer drive from the centre of the banded flint area, the petrol is well invested.
Sampling information: The banded material (see below) was collected from the surface in the deeper part of the quarry. The oolithic flint comes from a nodule still embedded in a fallen block of chalk.
For a full-blown picture of the sample of banded flint, click here (64 KBytes). Example of banded flint from Skrabka
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
Example of oolithic flint from Skrabka
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
For a full-blown picture of the sample of oolithic flint, click here (64 KBytes).
Sample description: According to the staff of the Krzemionki Archaeological Reserve this exposure is the only one with the same flint as in the Krzemionki flint mines. Which one of the varieties is meant is not completely clear.
The nodules we saw in the walls of the shafts at Krzemionki could have been either and the few scraps we collected from the surface there are too badly patinated to judge the original colour and structure. As the Oolithic material is mentioned to be of inferior quality, we guess it is the concentric banded type that is meant.

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Krzemionki

Locality: Krzemionki, Tarnobrzeg district
Synonyms: see above.
Geographic description: The mining area lies in gently undulating, thoroughly unspectacular country. The entrance of the archaeological reserve is on the west side of the exploitation area, at road number 754 from Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski towards Lublin.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 50 58' 25" N
Long. 021 29' 42"
(WGS 84 Datum)
Co-ordinate precision: These are the co-ordinates of the parking lot and probably not very far beside the truth. But don't bother if you're off a bit, the site measures ca. 3.8 million square metres, and is signposted so it's quite hard to miss when you're somewhere near.
Other topographical information: Take road number 754 from Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, which itself is on the main road from Radom to Rzeszów, towards Lublin. After about 8 kilometres, there is a sign at the right hand side of the road.
  One of the mining-shafts in Krzemionki
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 1999
Visitors information: If you are anywhere near this site, and you are interested in flint or archaeology in general, go there. Even if it means a larger detour.
Three of the original shafts are accessible, there is a small museum, the staff is knowledgeable and does speak English. There are some reconstructions of Neolithic and Bronze Age houses.
As we were there, in October 1999, the reconstruction of one of the shafts in its original, working condition, was well underway. As far as we know, these are the only prehistoric flintmines you can visit on a regular basis. The entrance fee is ridiculously low, but mind the steep stairs leading you ca. 12 metres down into the main shaft.
(Nearby accomodations as above.)
  Patinated banded flint from the Krzemionki area
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Sampling information: We did collect a few scraps lying at the surface and from a spoil-heap, but as this is an archaeological reserve, didn't stuff our pockets.
A few small pieces will do to give an idea of what the material looks like in a more weathered state. In the picture above, you see both the dorsal, strongly patinated, and ventral, only slightly weathered, side of the same flake. It seems that heavy weathering obliterates most of the structure.
Sample description: N/A

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Środborze

Locality: Środborze, Tarnobrzeg district
Synonyms: see above
Geographic description: An open area in wooded surroundings on the upland northwest of Ożarów.
There is a quarry nearby, but as we visited, this wasn't accessible.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 50 54' 20" N
Long. 021 36' 46"
(WGS 84 Datum)
Co-ordinate precision: Probably within 30 metres. Taken by GPS with reasonably clear horizon.
Other topographical information: A bit hard to find the right road out of Ożarów, as there are no signs. A map at a larger scale is very welcome here.
Visitors information: The surroundings are not what I would choose for my holidays, but the flint is fantastic. Apart from the mines at Krzemionki and the possibility of collecting good flint there is not much to do around here. Again, best tip: stay at Sandomierz.
Sampling information: We gathered the material shown here from the surface of some fields and from the paving of a track where the best samples where lying around. As mentioned above, there is a quarry in the vicinity, but we didn't visit it and therefore don't know if anything is to be found there.
For a full-blown picture of the sample of banded flint with cortex, click here (63 KBytes). sample of slightly patinated banded flint with cortex
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
Two fresh flakes of banded flint from Środborze
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
For a full-blown picture of the freshly knapped flakes form Środborze,
click here (100 KBytes).
Sample description: The sample on the left is quite a nice example of the stuff as it is slightly weathered, and therefore similar to what you can expect to find in an archaeological context.
The surface of the cortex is worn down, so we can't give you a precise description, but its thickness is still remarkable (up to 30 mm). The brownish to olive bands have turned grey and the lighter parts are bleached, bringing out the contrast even more.
On the right you see two freshly struck flakes. Here the darker bands retain their fresh colour and the lighter parts are a bit yellowish. If you load the high-resolution picture, you can see the small cracks that cause the edges to be slightly irregular in places.

 

Last modified on:
December 25, 2001
Contents primarily by:
Rengert Elburg
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