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Bečov-type Quartzite

Material name: Bečov-type Quartzite
Synonyms: North-West Bohemian quartzite
Material (geologic): Tertiary quartzite

Detail of recent sample
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999

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General characteristics

(In part adapted from Malkovský & Vencl 1995 and Lech & Mateiciucová 1995b)

Material: Bečov-type quartzite comes from a very limited area, basically just two neighbouring hills, Písečný and Bečovský vrch, some 8 kilometers to the South-West of the town of Most in Northern Bohemia. The geology of both hills is similar and apparently quite complicated. The hills themselves are mainly of tertiary volcanic origin, but lie on a basis of Upper Cretaceous deposits, mostly sand and are covered by Quaternary sediments like Loess. The volcanic activity caused a circulation of ground waters that brought about the silicification of the sands into thick banks and large nodules of heavily cemented quartzites.

For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (94 KBytes).
Export quality blade
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
  Macroscopically, the material is quite typical and easily distinguishable from the other quartzites in the region like Tušimiče and Skršin. Its structure reminds of sugar lumps, with a glittering surface in fresh fractures, as between the quite coarse angular grains of crystalline quartz, no cement is recognizable. The material is, in general, quite homogeneous with only occasional small spots of a bit denser stuff and no structures like bedding are visible . It has a good conchoidal fracture, depending a bit on the degree of cementation.
For a full-blown picture of
thin section,
click here (127 KBytes).
Thin section in plane polarized light
Foto: Marlina Elburg, 1999
Thin section in cross polarized light
Foto: Marlina Elburg, 1999
For a full-blown picture of
thin section,
click here (136 KBytes).
  This virtual lack of anything else but quartz in different forms makes Bečov-type quartzite quite boring in thin section. In unpolarized light, there is absolutely nothing to bee seen, and in plane polarized light (foto on the left) not much more can be recognized. Only under cross polarized light (foto on the right) are the grains clearly discernable, loosely set in a not very dense (quite crystalline?) matrix.

The 'cortex' is very variable from virtually nonexistent (very seldom) to over 5 cm, in which case it is better to speak of gradual grading between the quartzite and the surrounding sand(stone). No information is available on burning and patination at the moment, but we have seen paleolithic material that is very similar to Bečov where the matrix turned a slightly blueish white while the quartz grains did not show any alteration, giving the stone some likeness to a kind of very coarse Tušimiče-quartzite.

Color: The most typical colour for the Bečov-type quartzite is just white (N8 after the Munsell scale), sometimes slightly darker towards N7 with some zoning/clouding of 2.5Y 6/1 and 7/1 (light gray to gray). Some very 'polychrome' pieces like the one in the header show variation between 2.5Y7/2-3 (light yellowish gray), in the darkest spots even down to 2.5Y 5-6/1 and N5 (gray), 2.5-5Y 7/1 (light gray) and N7-8.
The reddish type is also slightly variable between 10R 5/5-6 (red), 2.5YR 5/5 (weak red), locally 5YR 7/4 (pink) and up to 7.5YR 8/3 (pink).
Excavated material, especially the very light colours, can make a very grayish or yellowish impression, depending on the sediment in which it was found, due to residual material in the spaces between the quartz grains that is quite impossible to remove by normal washing (see archaeological sample above).
Other information: Bečov-Písečný vrch is a known mining site, one of the very few where quartzite was exploited. It was partly excavated in advance of large-scale quartzite mining for industrial purposes in the sixties, but remains only scantly published (Žebera 1966). Apparently, the first traces of extraction of this raw material date to the paleolithic, but were carried on up to the Bronze Age. In the latter period, the mining concentrated not on the fine-grained variety but on coarser material for the manufacture of querns.
Knapping notes: The knapping properties of Bečov are, in comparison with the other quartzites in the region, very mediocre. Due to the larger grains of quartz edges are jagged and neither very sharp nor stable. Its main quality, that made it probably very popular in the Upper Paleolithic, is the fact that thanks to a quite straight fracture and the practically unlimited size of the cores you can strike very long blades. The only way to retouch this material is by (direct) percussion as pressure flaking is impossible due to the small scale differences in breaking behaviour caused by the relatively large quartz grains.
Archaeological description: Of all the materials in Northern Bohemia, Bečov has clearly been used the longest. During excavations on the southwestern part of Písečný vrch, several workshops that date to the Middle Paleolithic have been found under a kind of rockshelter. According to the excavator, they date at least to the Eemian (Riss/Würm) interglacial or even the younger part of the Riss/Saale glaciation (Fridrich 1972, Fridrich & Smolíková 1972).

The next recorded, and more widespread use of this type of quartzite dates to the Upper Paleolithic. Again during excavations on Písečný vrch, some artefacts that are attributed to the Aurignacian could be uncovered (Fridrich 1972), but the most intensive use belongs to the Late Upper Paleolithic Magdalenian. During this period quartzite from Bečov was one of the favourite raw materials in Bohemia and neighbouring areas. On an area of ca. 200 x 130 m several workshops could be excavated with numerous cores and blades up to 30 cm in length. The first mining on the site probably dates to this period. Quite a lot of 'exported' pieces are know from this time, like in Hostim, southwest of Prague (Vencl 1995), Kvíc, to the Northwest of Prague (Žebera 1966), but apparently also up to 250 km to the Southeast near Brno and 150 km to the North-West at the Kniegrotte in Thuringia in Germany.

An extremely long blade (21 cm) from the Magdalenian site of Groitzsch, Kr. Eilenburg in Saxony as well as some other artefacts from the excavation there, have also been identified as Bečov-type quartzite (Hanitzsch 1972, 55 and plate 75). At least the attribution of the very long blade to this type of raw material is very dubious as it is finer and less homogeneous than the material from Bečov we have seen and shows clear ochre-coloured schliers more consistent with the description of Kamenná Voda-quartzite. Some other, very much smaller blades and flakes are virtually undistinguishable from material from Bečov, but there are quite similar quartzites around, some of them a lot nearer to the site (link forthcoming) in Tertiary sediments to the West.
During the Late Paleolithic (Arched Backed Piece Komplex/Federmesser) its popularity declines, but it is still regularily found on sites throughout (Northern) Bohemia.

Due to the very strong 'regionalization' of the use of raw materials during the Mesolithic, Bečov-quartzite is the predominant material only in Northern Bohemia, but is found widely as an admixture in a much larger region. Finds are known from all over Bohemia, but none are published outside the Czech Republic.
During the Neolithic the its use intensifies, starting with the Early Neolithic Linear Pottery Culture/Linearbandkeramik, as it is also found, although in much smaller quantities then the other materials from the region, north of the Ore Mountains (Krušné hory/Erzgebirge) around the city of Dresden. Although used throughout the later stone age and during the Eneolithic, it is a lot less popular than the quartzites from Tušimiče and Skršin.

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Bečov, Písečný vrch, Most district

Locality: Bečov, Písečný vrch, Most district, Czech Republic
Synonyms: CZ 2 mining site ( Lech & Mateiciucová 1995b) according to the appendix to the 'Bochum catalogue on prehistoric flint mines in Europe', Seventh International Flint Symposium ( Archaeologia Polona 33): 261-533. In the new edition of the Bochum catalogue ( 5000 Jahre Feuersteinbergbau ), none of the four prehistoric mines from the Czech Republic is mentioned.

Bečov-Sandberg (Sand mountain) which is the German name for the hill that can be found on some pre-war maps.

Geographic description: Písečný vrch is low ridge in the western foothills of the České Středohoří (Czech Midmountains/Böhmisches Mittelgebirge), measuring ca. 1500 by 900 meter and rises about 55 meters over the surrounding plain. It is located ca. 9 kilometers southeast of Most between the villages of Milá and Bečov.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 50 25' 32" N
Long. 013 44' 10" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)

Co-ordinate precision: Not extremely accurate. The point was digitized from a large scale map (1:50 000), but the exact projection and datum of the map are unknown. Anyhow, they are off target by probably less then ca. 150 metres, so you will be near enough to find your way to the top off the hill and the exposure at the eastern side of it.
Other topographical information: As the sites lies in an area that is accessible only by small back roads, you will need a reasonable map to find your way towards it. We recommend map 10 (České Středohoří západ) in the green 1:50 000 series of the Klub Českých Turistů that can be found at bookshops in larger towns. Coming from the North, take road number 15 from Most to Lovosice and turn south at Korozluky. After coming to Bečov, try to find the small road that leaves the village at the South-East towards the very conspicuous cone of Milá Hill. You now drive straight towards Písečný vrch. After ca. 3 km there is a nearly right angled curve in the road, near Milá, leave your car here. The hill that lies to the South-West is the sampling-site (see foto below).
Coming from the South, e.g. from Louny, there are so many twists and turns to make that you will really be needing a large-scale map like the one mentioned above.
Additional information: Main site from the north
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
  In the picture above you are looking towards the south from the road from Bečov to Milá. To get to the exposure, which is at the left hand side of the summit, you can start your walk either here or from the East where there is a marked footpath leading directly to the site.
Visitors information: As we visited the site mostly on day-trips or operating out of Most, we don't have any real information on the touristic infrastructure of the immediate surrounding. Bečov itself is a bit run-down and we didn't see anything in the line of a watering-hole when passing through. The nearest towns are Most and Louny.
Sampling information: Banks of qurtzite in former quarry
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
  Bečov-Písečný vrch is without any doubt the best site to visit in North-West Bohemia, as it is the only one where you can actually see something on a bit larger scale. The Hill itself has been largely destroyed by mining, but what is left of it has now been made a protected area. The best exposure, where the picture above was taken, is at the western side of the summit.
Here is a smallish abandoned quarry where the thick banks of quartzite are perfectly visible. As it is now a geological/archaeological monument, do not sample the in situ bank. There are a lot of high-quality blocks lying around that will yield good pieces for a reference collection. Judging from the very many freshly struck flakes, the site is a favourite with geologists and archaeological rock-hounds.
For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (97 KBytes).
Typical whiteish material
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
Sample description: The flake in the picture comes from one of the blocks lying on the floor of the former quarry. It is very typical with its coarse, glittering surface and structure reminding of sugar-lumps. On one side a small piece of cortex can be seen and directly underneath it, there is a bit darker patch of more translucent material. As you can see, confusion with other quartzites is possible.

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Bečov, Bečovský vrch, Most district

Locality: Bečov, Bečovský vrch, Most district, Czech Republic
Synonyms: Verpánek (Malkovský & Vencl 1995) or "Schusterberg" (Shoemaker's mountain) (Žebera 1966) . The low mountain/hill on which the quartzites occur has two 'summits' of which the southern one seems to be called Verpánek, although this name does not occur on most maps, where the whole elevation is marked as Bečovský vrch
Geographic description: Bečovský vrch/Verpánek is an extension of to the West of the typical volcanic cone of Milá Hill. It lies directly to the north of the main site of Bečov-type quartzite at Písečný vrch.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 50 26' 02" N
Long. 013 44' 23" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)

Co-ordinate precision: Co-ordinates taken with hand held GPS-receiver before April 1st 2000, so precision is somewhere around 20 meters. It should be possible to identify the large block/small outcrop where we took the sample.
Other topographical information: As the site is directly across the road from Písečný vrch, look there for a route description.
Additional information: Vein with reddish and white quartzite
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
  There are no good exposures on this site as the abandoned quarries are either completely overgrown or do not expose quartzites of any quality. There are, however, large blocks scattered on the hillside which may be parts of small outcrops. The one in the picture lies about half-way up on the northern side of the hill.
Visitors information: See above
Sampling information: We visited this site out of curiosity, passing through Northern Bohemia after sampling 'plasma' in Moravia. We feature this site as it is mentioned several times in the literature (e.g. Malkovský & Vencl 1995) and it is the only place where we found secondary coloured quartzite of the Bečov-type.
For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (98 KBytes).
Sample of reddish variety of quartzite
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
Sample description: The freshly struck flake from the block in the picture above shows all typical features of Bečov-quartzite with its coarser structure and glittering surface. The only macroscopically visible difference is its reddish colour.

Last modified
December 16, 2001
Contents primarily by:
Rengert Elburg
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