home ]


Material name: Romigny-Lhéry-type flint
Synonyms: Type de Romigny-Lhéry; Silex tertiare lacustre zoné; Type 233
Material (geologic): Upper Eocene ("Ludian" Paleogene/Tertiary) lacustrine chert

Detail of silex de Romigny-Lhery
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003

top ] [ home ]

General characteristics

(In part adapted from Delcourt-Vlaeminck 1998and Howell 1983)
Geographical setting: The sources of tertiary flint under discussion here lie between the villages of Romigny and Lhéry, about 20 kilometres southwest of Reims in the department Marne in Northern France. The area, known as the Tardenois (yes, it was here that the Late Mesolithic Tardenoisien was first recognized), lies at the easternmost edge of the large geological structure of the Paris Basin. Just to the West of Reims the platform of the Île-de-France, marking the boundary between the Cretaceous of the "Champagne crayeuse" and the Tertiary of the "Bassin de Paris", rises up sharply in the form of a cuesta. This natural frontier was the scene of some of the fiercest battles of the First World War and the whole area is littered with war-cemetries of all nationalities.
As can be seen in the site-photos below, the region itself is quite flattish, mostly given over to agriculture, but in some areas still quite densely wooded. Structurally, the area lies between the platform of the Soissonais with Middle Eocene chalks in the North and the Brie Platform, consisting of Lower Oligocene (Sannoisien in the local stratigraphy) sediments, in the South, and belongs to the so called "surface structurale de St-Ouen" (Pomerol & Feugueur 1986).
Material and colour: Large blocks of tertiairy flint
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2002
  The tertiary chert of the Romigny-Lhéry-type is one of the classical materials which are quite impossible to classify. As it is a siliceous replacement in chalk, you could very well call it a chert, or even a flint, despite it being formed in freshwater-chalks and being of post-cretaceous age. On the other hand, it is so closely related to the materials from Etrelles-et-la-Montbleuse, Mer & Suèvres and Jablines, which are variously classified as "silexite", "opalite" or plain "silex", that we kept them all together in the 'other materials'-section.

The french name "Silex tertiare lacustre zoné", or "Tertiary banded freshwater-chert" is really the best description for this type of material. Its parent rock is the Upper Eocene 'Calcaire de Saint-Ouen' of the local Ludian, roughly corresponding with the international Priabonian (37-34 Ma), which was deposited in fresh to slightly brackish water under lacustrine conditions in the Paris Basin.
The photo of the flake (length 56 mm) on the left-hand side below gives a good idea why it is called 'banded' or 'zoned', although the banding is never as pronounced as in real banded flint like the famous material from Krzemionki or other sources in Eastern Poland. It might be more accurate to call it 'laminated', although this would suggest a structural inhomogeneity of the material which is not present. The colour varies between 10YR 3/1 (very dark grey) under the cortex with the rest of the matrix between 10YR 3/2 and 4-5/2-3 (very dark greyish brown to slightly greyish brown). The lightly patinated piece (size 43 mm, colours predominantly from 10YR 6/4, light yellowish brown to 7/4-3, very pale brown and 7/2 light gray) next to it (click on the thumbnail to see the necessary detail) gives very good clues as to the environment in which the local chalks were deposited. The small circular inclusions, best seen at the left side, are oogonia, the female reproductive structures of charophytes, plants that stand in between algae and mossses. Traditionally, and often cited in the archeological literature, these plants were taken to indicate freshwater-conditions, but newer research shows them to occur even in water with a salinity of up to 70‰ (Tucker & Wright 1990: 171-172 and fig. 4.69).

Alas, these fossils, when found in a piece of flint, are no proof that the material comes from Romigny-Lhéry, as the same oogonia occur in all tertiary material listed above, especially in the 'silexite' from Etrelles (Cupillard & Richard 1991). The good news is, that we haven't seen these inclusions in any other type of flint, so if they are present and the piece comes from within the ca. 400 kilometre radius of known distribution around the sources, you can probably be quite confident to be holding a piece of French tertiary chert. But beware! Certainly not all Tertiary material has these inclusions, depending on phase and facies of the sediment, so you will have to look carefully to distinguish between brownish chert and flint and the tertiary 'silexite'.

  Flake of silex lacustre
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Flake of the typical "Silex lacustre zoné" from Romigny
flint with fossils
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Slightly patinated flake with numerous characteristic fossils
  In the archaeological literature, of which there is precious little, the most typical colours are described as being 'brun foncé' 10YR 4/4 (dark yellowish brown) to 'brun clair' 10YR 6/3 (pale brown), similar to the material from Grand-Pressigny (Delcourt-Vlaeminck 1998: 38), but the colour is quite variable.
In our sample colours range from 7.5YR 2.5/1 (black) to 10YR 7/2 - 7/4 (light gray to very pale brown) and 10YR 5/6 (yellowish brown), with brownish colours around 7.5YR 4/3 to 10YR 6/2 (brown to light brownish gray) most frequent and typical. For more precise information on colours, see the sample-descriprions below.
In all, the colours of the Romigny-Lhéry-type are a bit weaker in chroma than the material from Grand Pressigny. Another clear difference is the presence of detritic quartz-crystals in the latter that are completely absent in Romigny-Lhéry. Although Affolter (2002), in her comprehensive work on the siliceous materials from Western Central Europe, lists Romigny-Lhéry as a separate type (233) of flint, there is no further description or characterisation of the material.
Other information: Like said above, there is very little literature on the flint deposits in the region, and no excavations have been carried out on possible extraction-sites. It seems most work has been done in the middle of the 20th century (Lacroix 1955, Howell 1983 ) and didn't amount to more than very selective surveys in which only the most 'typical' and beautiful pieces were collected. Even if the material can be found even today directly on and under the surface, it is quite probable that some kind of more organized extraction or even mining has been carried out during the late(r) Neolithic.

There are several knapping places, which are decidedly 'Campingnien' in character and probably represent besides working-areas also extraction-sites. One of the places we visited (sampling-site 289, see below) would be a very likely candidate with loads of very roughly knapped material (photo under 'archaeological description') and even a few flaked pics.
Unfortunately, as we passed through Reims on a Sunday we didn't have a detailed topographical map at hand and most literature came to our attention only after visiting the site. In the literature (Howell 1983: 85, fig. 4.61) four very rich sites are mentioned:

  • Bois Pierlot to Ensemoignes ('Courzy', 'Toffart', 'Les Vignes')
  • Towards the east of the first site on the plateau of 'Trembleau'
  • 'Pupion', 1 kilometre to the Northeast of the second site
  • 'Langueville'
The last one is certainly the most interesting as it is stated: "This area consists of pits sunk into the chalk in an attempt to mine deeper deposits" (Howell 1983: 85). Further investigation of the region with modern equipment (surface mapping with a GPS, magnetometric prospection) would probably bring to the light quite a few other sites as well as better insight in their function. Any volunteers out there?
Knapping notes: It might not be the nicest material in the world for knapping on account of a certain brittleness, but this is made up for by the nearly unlimited dimensions of some of the nodules, which can easily surpass the 50 cm mark. The fact that very long blades, used for the manufacture of the classical Late Neolithic daggers (poignards), so well known from the ateliers of Grand-Pressigny, could be produced from this material already indicates it is a high-quality raw material.
Archaeological description: Artefacts from mining site
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2002
  Even if little is known about Romigny-Lhéry as a raw material, it has been known as a source of lithics at least since the beginning of the 20th century. A lot more has been published about its prehistoric distribution. Especially with the recent work of Delcourt-Vlaeminck (1998), who estimates the tertiary silex, in the slightly provocative sub-title of her book, to be a rival to Grand-Pressigny flint.
Used locally since early prehistory, the heyday of its wider distribution coincides with that of the Grand-Pressigny flint, in the Late Neolithic (ca. 2800-2400 BC). Daggers and ground axes have been reported from the whole of Northern France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (Polman 1996) and Western Germany (Löhr 1990a and Delcourt-Vlaeminck 1998 for the whole of Northwestern Europe). The northernmost piece of Tertiary flint reported until now comes from Buinen in the province of Drenthe in the Northern Netherlands, some 470 kilometres from Romigny.

It is not only the contemporaneity with the distribution of Grand-Pressigny that is striking, also the form in which Romigny-Lhéry is found further away from the source, mainly as daggers, is very similar. This is probably the main cause for the frequent misidentification of the Tertiary material as flint from Touraine. One reason of the convergence of both materials will undoubtedly have been the very large size of the blocks that can be found and a certain similarity in colour. Not surprisingly, the long blades and daggers made of Romigny-Lhéry tend to be a bit shorter: the tertiary material is less tough than the slightly quartzitic 'silex pressignien'.
A very interesting point could be the technique of production of very large blades. This was achieved in Touraine by the use of the famous, very specialized, cores known as 'livres de beurre'(see Grand-Pressigny, but nothing is known (or at least published) about the technique used in the Reims area. We wouldn't wonder if they invented a similar form of core to achieve the same results, but this again would be another task for the local archaeologists.

top ] [ home ]
Locality: Romigny, département Marne, Champagne-Ardenne region, France.
Synonyms: Mining site F 69 according to the catalogue of the museum in Bochum, 3rd edition (Weisgerber et al. (eds.) 1999). FlintSource samples 289 and 290.
Geographical description: Romigny lies a bit under 20 kilometres to the Southwest of Reims on the first main Tertiary plateau, directly on the RD 980 road which runs from Reims towards Château-Thierry. As we didn't have a detailed topographical map of the area, we just drove around a bit until we found a likely place on a slope.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 49° 09' 39" N
Long. 003° 46' 38" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Co-ordinate precision: The coordinates given above are for sample 289 and were taken with a handheld GPS receiver at the foot of the hill where most cultural material was found.
The coordinates for sample 290 to the North of the village are:
Lat. 49° 11' 08" N
Long. 003° 46' 23" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Other topographical information: To reach the sampling area coming from Reims just take the RD 980 towards Château-Thierry. After some twenty kilometres you pass through Ville-en-Tardenois. The next village is Romigny. Coming from the West (Paris), take the main motorway A4 which links Reims with Paris (attention: péage, toll-way) and leave it at exit 21. Here you will be automatically directed onto the RD 980, on which it is a 5 kilometre drive to the East to reach Romigny.
Our main sampling site (289) where we saw a whole lot of cultural material, lies directly to the south of the village, probably along the narrow road towards Jonquery. It might be a very good idea to buy a detailed (1:25 000) map of the area in Reims and try to locate the sites mentioned by Howell 1983 and listed above.
Additional information: view from sampling location
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2002
  The photo above was taken from the spot where we also took the coordinates, looking to the East. It shows you the typical landscape of the region, which is mostly quite flattish, apart from the deep and steep valleys of the main rivers like the Marne and Vesle.
Visitors information: The nearest real city is Reims, but beware, accommodation and restaurants tend to be quite expensive here, although it will probably be possible to locate some budget-friendly quarters. As we visited the site on our main 2001 tour of the Paris basin and adjoining areas, we stayed in a place to the East of Reims, near the sampling site of Mont Sinaï near Verzy and drove on towards Jablines and the sites in the department of Oise. So there is very little we can tell you about worthwhile places to stay and eat in the area.
Sampling information: We visited the region in spring (middle of April), which seems the best time for sampling. Quite a lot of the fields are ploughed, but still bare, giving good visibility. For an archaeological survey the area near the top of the hill, about 200 metres to the southwest of the coordinates given, seems most promising. But beware: this is probably an interesting archaeological site, so don't go there just to collect artefacts to take them home. If you are planning to do serious work here, first contact the regional archaeological service. The artefacts shown in the introduction should still be around on the surface, as we only took unworked material from this site.
If you come just for a geological sample, keep your eyes open for heaps of stone taken from the fields (see below) as they are the best source for large blocks of raw material.
  Typical tertiary chert
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Flake of brownish, slightly banded chert
size: 44 mm
Flake with thick cortex
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Flake of zoned material with thick chalky cortex
size: 66 mm
  Flake resembling nordic flint
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Piece of tertiary chert, not quite unlike Nordic flint
size: 83 mm
Flake with thick cortex
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Glassy brown chert
size: 70 mm
Sample description: As the material is highly variable, and we even don't know if our samples are representative of the complete spectrum, we can only give you a glimpse of the range of colours and structures. The top left flake is fairly homogenous and has a colour of 7.5YR 4-5/2, just plain brown, the large banded flake with thick cortex next to it has a darker band under the cortex of 10YR 4/2 (dark greyish brown) and grades upwards to 10YR 7/2 (light gray).
The piece in the second row that looks a bit like Cretaceous flint is a lot more varied than you would say: colours range from black (7.5YR 2.5/1) and very dark gray (3/1) via 7.5YR-10YR 3/2 (dark brown to dark greyish brown) to plain brown (7.5YR 5/2) and quite a lot of 10YR 5/2 greyish brown. The very brown looking piece to the right is exactly that: predominantly 10YR 5/3 (brown) with patches of 4/1 to 4/2, dark gray and dark greyish brown and is quite translucent up to a thickness of 10 mm.

The two pieces below are more to give an idea what other material can be found near Romigny. The specimen on the left has a very opal-like silky look and feel to it and is translucent only on the thinnest edges. The basic colour is 2.5Y 6/2 (light brownish grey) with the darker inclusions around 2.5Y 4-5/1, (dark) grey. The homogenous flake on the right is completely opaque and has a colour of 10YR 6-7/3 (very) pale brown.

  Opal-like chert
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Fragment of opal-like material with thick cortex
and numerous inclusions
size: 51 mm
Coarse variety
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Flake of the coarsest variety in our sample
size: 50 mm

top ] [ home ]
Locality: Lhéry, département Marne, Champagne-Ardenne region, France.
Synonyms: FlintSource samples 291 and 292.
Geographical description: The village of Lhéry lies just 5 kilometres to the North of Romigny, with which it is connected by a narrow road, the D 23.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 49° 11' 45" N
Long. 003° 46' 17" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Co-ordinate precision: The coordinates given above are those of the stone heap (sample 291) in the picture below and were taken with a handheld GPS receiver. Accuracy within ten meters.
Sample 292 was collected directly to the South of the village of Lhéry, in the area where the photo below was taken:
Lat. 49° 12' 22" N
Long. 003° 45' 48" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Other topographical information: Follow the instructions to get to Romigny given above and then follow the road which leaves the village Northeast of the church. This is the D 23 which leads directly towards Lhéry. The sampling-points lie along the road.
Additional information: View towards the village of Lhery
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2002
  In the picture above you see a view of the Village of Léry from the south at the height where we collected sample 292.
Visitors information: See above.
Sampling information: Large heap of lacustrine chalk and flint
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2002
  This is what you will be looking for when trying to get yourself a good sample of the local silex. It might not be really in situ, but we didn't see any primary exposures, so this is probably the best you will get. We suspect this heap to have been dumped after the material was extracted, probably during construction work. As we saw a few other heaps lying around but less accessible, it might be worthwhile (if you have the time) to do some driving in the area for a wider spectrum of material, in addition to the flint collected from fields etc.
  glassy chert with coarser patches
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Piece of typical glassy chert with some coarser chalky patches
size: 62 mm
Prehistoric flake of chert
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Prehistoric flake of light-coloured chert with "plough patination"
length: 38 mm
  Chert with numerous ghosts
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Flake of typical chert with numerous "ghosts" of fossils
size: 45 mm
Prehistoric flake of chert
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2003
Piece of coarser material with clearly recognizable oogonites of charophytes
size: 39 mm
Sample description: Large patinated nodule of banded flint
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2002
  The extra large nodule of patinated banded chert is a good illustration of the size this material can attain. We saw even larger blocks, up to 50 centimetres in size, but not as nicely banded as this specimen.
The sample from this area doesn't add much to the ones from around Romigny. The top left piece is another example of the typical material with colours ranging from 7.5YR 5/2 (brown) to 10YR 5/2 (greyish brown) with the lighter patches 7.5YR 6/2-7/2 (pinkish grey). The very light piece next to it is a slightly patinated, probably prehistoric, flake of very translucent material with an original colour of 10YR 7/2 to 7/4 (light gray to very pale brown).
In both pieces in the bottom row you can clearly see the typical oogones (click on thumbnail) embedded in the siliceous matrix. In the left-hand piece (colours varying from 10YR 5/2-5/3 greyish brown to 5/4 yellowish brown and 6/3 pale brown) they are just visible as 'ghosts', but in the other flake (colours between 10YR 5/6 and 6/4 (light) yellowish brown with the lightest patches 7/3-7/6 very pale brown to yellow) they are partly preserved as casts.

Last modified on:
April 14, 2003
Contents primarily by:
Rengert Elburg
Comments to: