home ]

Chocolate Flint

Material name: Chocolate Flint
Synonyms: Chocolate flint from the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) Mountains
Material (geologic): Upper Jurassic flint

Chocolate flint from Wierzbica
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999

[ top ] [ home ]

General characteristics

(In part adapted from Schild 1976 and Lech, H. & J. Lech 1995a)

Material: Chocolate flint from Central Poland is, together with Banded flint from the same region, one of the best and longest studied raw materials in Europe. To give a short general description is nearly impossible as at least eleven subtypes are distinguished. Unfortunately the article describing these varieties in detail is in Polish and therefore not available to us in an other form than an extremely short summary. Instead we used the much more limited description by the same author (Schild 1976) for this overview. During our excursion in the region, we were able to sample only one of the approx. 17 sites where this kind of flint is found. The sample we present hereafter is therefore not really representative for the whole range of colours, textures etc., but it will do to give an impression of the general material.
Chocolate flint is a very high quality material from the northern fringes of the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) Mountains in Central Poland and used intensively throughout prehistory. It occurs mostly in small rounded nodules and slabs approx. 20 cm in length and up to 10 cm thick with a typical hard, thin cortex. In general the material is quite homogeneous but can show some microbanding (as visible in the patinated flake below). In a freshly broken state its lustre is dull to waxy or silky, patination can either be of the white or 'lack-lustre' variety. Most material we saw is slightly translucent, showing the most important characteristic of this type of flint: finely dispersed very small inclusions. This feature makes it possible to distinguish chocolate flint from similar material. In the picture below you can get the general idea, in an update we hope to be able to show a thin section of the material.
Color: The name 'chocolate' flint is a bit misleading as the colour of the material ranges from black though dark grey and dark greyish brown to brown. It seems the whole range from 10YR 2/1 to 4/4 can be present, with one variety up to 5YR 3/2 according to the Munsell scale. Most groups (remember, there are eleven types, mostly distinguished by colour) seem to be quite homogeneous in their coloration, but most material we sampled at Wierzbica shows distinct banding under the cortex with a very dark grey to black core.
Other information: Chocolate flint occurs in a zone of approx. 25 km length roughly between Iłża and Orońsko, south of Radom. Within it, three groups can be distinguished: the eastern one around Iłża, a western cluster around Orońsko and a agglomeration of sites between Wierzbica and Polany. The Upper Jurassic bedrock and the associated karstic clay never occur directly at the surface as they are alway covered by Quatenary sediments.
Knapping notes: In one word: terrific. Most nodules are very homogeneous, differences in colour seem of no influence to the structure of the material. Flakes are very easily detached and do not have a very pronounced bulbus. The ventral sides are relatively smooth even on large hard-percussion flakes. The edges are sharp but not extremely so and quite stable. It can be worked in all manners and is quite alright for pressure-flaking although some extra force is necessary because of the microcristalline structure. When you are sampling in the region, be sure to prepare a few pre-cores to take with you to knap at home.
Archaeological description: As to be expected with such high-quality material, chocolate flint was used widely during all times in prehistory. Its greatest distribution was reached during the Final Paleolithic (Arch Backed Piece Complex/ Federmesser/Creswellian), as sites as remote as 300 kilometres from the natural occurrences contain up to 90% of chocolate flint. Very probably the first mining dates to this time, like in Orońsko II (PL 1 according to the Bochum catalogue, Weisgerber et al. (eds.) 1980).
After a strong decline in the Early Mesolithic, a second peak of use is known from the Late Mesolithic Janisławice Culture, as very probably the mining site in Tomasów (PL 2, Weisgerber et al. (eds.) 1980) came into Production. In later prehistory, chocolate flint is of more local significance, but small amounts are still found exported over long distances. In this light the dating of the mine at Wierzbica "Zele" (PL 3) (Lech, H. & J. Lech 1995a), at the Late Bronze Age/Iron Age transition is highly remarkable.
The archaeological material was mostly mined from the residual karstic clays covering the original (Upper Jurassic) parent rock. Up to now five mining sites on chocolate flint have been excavated: Orońsko (PL 1), Tomasów (PL 2), Wierzbica "Zele" (PL 3), Polany Kolony II (PL 4) and Polany II (PL 5) (numbering according to Weisgerber et al. (eds.) 1980).

[ top ] [ home ]

Wierzbica-"Zele"

Locality: Wierzbica-"Zele", Radom District, Poland
Synonyms: Mining site PL 3, according to the catalogue of the museum in Bochum (Weisgerber et al. (eds.) 1980).
Geographic description: The site is located about 200 metres south of road number 734 leading from Wierzbice to Szydłowiec between Wierzbica-Osiedle and the "Przyjaźń" cement plant in Wierzbica, approx. 20 kilometres south of Radom.
Geographical co-ordinates: our sampling point lies at:
Lat. 51 14' 44" N
Long. 021 03' 07" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)

According to Lech, H. & J. Lech 1995a, the mining site lies at:
Lat. 51 14' 45" N
Long. 021 03' 10" E
(Mapdatum unknown)
Co-ordinate precision: As you can see from the near-perfect match of field- and literature-co-ordinates, the precision lies within arc-seconds
Other topographical information: From Kielce or Radom take the main road number 7 (E77) north or south respectively until you come through Szydłowiec. Here you take road number 734 in an easterly direction towards Wierzbica, until you pass the enormous cement factory. A few hundred meters further on, on the right hand side of the road, you see a few clusters of trees in the middle distance. Here a partly paved track leaves the main road, directly towards the site.
If coming from Iłża, bring a good map and navigator to reach Wierzbica. From there, take the 734 towards Szydłowiec, until you see the cement plant at approx. the same distance as in the photo below. The site is now on your left hand side.
Additional information: Sampling location at Wierzbica
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
  In the picture above, you are looking from the site towards the northwest. The large chimneys in the background belong to the "Przyjaźń" cement plant in Wierzbica.
Visitors information: As we visited the site, we spent the night at a relatively expensive and utterly uninspiring hotel in Starachowice we will not recommend. If you don't mind the 50 kilometres, Kielce is probably the best place to stay to explore chocolate flint country. Radom could be an option too, but as we didn't visit it, we can't tell you anything about it.
Sampling information: The material we collected comes from the field in the picture above and especially a few piles of stones that a kind local farmer has prepared for visiting samplers. Like all chocolate flint, no primary outcrops are accessible
For a full-blown picture of a nodule from
Wierzbica-Zele, click here (70 KBytes).
Freshly flaked nodule from Wierzbica-Zele
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
thin flake showing the internal structure of chocolate flint
Foto:Elburg/Meinel/Rummer, 2000
For a full-blown picture of translucent flake of chocolate flint, click here (70 KBytes).
For a full-blown picture of a patinated flake from
Wierzbica-Zele, click here (62 KBytes).
patinated flake showing microbanding
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
freshly struck flake with zonation
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
For a full-blown picture of freshly struck flake from Wierzbica-Zele, click here (61 KBytes).
Sample description: See general notes in the introduction.
 

Last modified on:
February 19, 2000
Contents primarily by:
Rengert Elburg
Comments to: