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Tušimice-type Quartzite

Material name: Tušimice-type Quartzite
Synonyms: Süsswasserquarzit (freshwater quartzite), North-West Bohemian tertiary quartzite
Material (geologic): Tertiary (Oligocene) 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 1995a )

Material: Tušimice-type quartzites come from a very limited area, just east of the town of Kadaň in Northern Bohemia, where the most western part of the Bohemian Basin borders on the Tertiary volcanic massive of the Doupovské hory. Here, due to weathering ( Malkovský & Vencl 1995 ) and very probable influenced by the Tertiary volcanic activity in the region, Late Cretaceous sediments have been cemented toghether to form a very dense quartzite. Two types can be distinguished which grade into one another, although intermediate forms are quite rare.
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 (98 KBytes).
  In both varieties the original sediment consist of well sorted angular quartz grains with occasional inclusions of hornblende or pyroxene (pers. com. Marlina Elburg), as visible in the thin sections above (field of view 4.4 mm). The grains are welded together by a very dense cement of amorphous quartz, the dark mass between the lighter granules in polarized light.

The whiteish variety is, apart from the lack of colouring, characterised by the irregular distribution of cement and quartz grains, as can be seen in the thin section at the left hand side below (field of view 13 mm, unpolarized light). This results in denser patches that are macroscopic clearly visible, like in the archaeological sample and in the specimen below .
The 'classic' type is yellowish, has a very even distribution of cement and shows occasional rusty spots, of which the other thin section below is a typical example (field of view 13 mm, unpolarized light).

For a full-blown picture of
thin section,
click here (122 KBytes).
Thin section of whiteish veined variety
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
Thin section under normal light
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
For a full-blown picture of
thin section,
click here (123 KBytes).
  The material is also macroscopically quite distinct with a attractive glitter on the fractures, caused by the quartz grains that can be distinguished by the naked eye. Until now, we haven't seen any patination on archaeological material and no burnt fragments, so no information on these subjects is available at the moment. In the literature ( Malkovský & Vencl 1995 ), it is stated that Tušimice-quartzite shows no patination at all, but as even quartz is not immune to chemical weathering this seems a bit strong.

As there are no exposures with this type of quartzite, or even natural occurences of eroded blocks, exist, no reliable information on cortex or crust can be given either. In the very few blocks we found on the location of the former mining area (see below ) we found some patches of silicified sandstone, while other fragments showed gradual grading into much coarser (conglomerate-like) material.

For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (105 KBytes).
Small flake of typical material
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
Export quality material
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (103 KBytes).
Color: The typical Tušimice-quartzite is pale yellow between 2.5 and 5Y 7/3 according to the Munsell Soil Colour Charts with sometimes (denser) patches around 2.5Y 8/2. The rusty spots (certainly not present in all material) vary from 7.5YR 6/5 to 6/6 (light brown to reddish yellow), sometimes a bit more reddish around 5YR 6/5-6.
The whiteish variety is white with a faint yellowish hue, 2.5Y 8/1 with the denser parts being the same colour or very pale yellow 5Y 8/2.
Other information: The toponymic, and very probably only, occurence of this type of quartzite at Tušimice, ca. 3 kilometers east of Kadaň in Northern Bohemia sadly does not exist any more. The site, one of the few known mining sites of quartzites, was discovered in the early sixties during the construction of an enormous power-plant that converts the adjacently mined lignite into electricity ( Neustupný 1966 ). Luckily, some archaeological observations could be made, and even a (unfortunately not fully published) rescue excavation was carried out as the construction work was in progress.

The mines, of which 19 could be recorded, were located on a low hill along the Lužický stream, a tribituary of the Ohře (Eger) river. They were cut through the loamy cover (argilized Tertiary tuffites) into a layer of sandstone in which the quartzite occurs as large nodules. The depth of the shafts, several of which had side workings in the form of niches or even galleries, varied in depth between two and four meters. After reaching the sandstone, the quartzites were extracted by cutting a deep groove around the nodule, which was then broken by a blow from the side. The mining field, part of which seems to be still intact but covered by a road and a small park, was extremely small: about 0.2 hectare ( Neustupný 1966 , Lech & Mateiciucová 1995a , Malkovský & Vencl 1995 ).
The only available 14 C date of 2818 + 100 bc (Bln-239) indicates contemporaneaty with a nearby TRB (Funnel Beaker/Trichterbecher) settlement, but the widespread use of Tušimice quartzite during the Early Neolithic (LBK) makes a late 6th millenium date for the first workings likely.

Knapping notes: As getting a large enough sample to do some serious experiments is virtually impossible, these notes are perforce a bit sketchy. Hard as well as soft hammer percussion both give reasonable straight fractures with a relatively flat bulb, making it a good raw material for elongated flakes. As it is a bit brittle, narrow blades are difficult to obtain as you need quite a large striking platform. For this reason too, and the fact that you need quite some force to detach a flake, pressure flaking is very difficult. These properties are clearly reflected in the archaeological sample above.
Archaeological description: Like all high-quality quartzites in Northern Bohemia, Tušimice quartzite is used throughout the whole prehistory, starting in the Middle Paleolithic. During the Upper and Late Paleolithic (Magdalenian and Arch Backed Piece Complex/ Federmesser respectively), this type of raw material is only found as rare admixtures (< 1%) in local assemblages and no long distance distribution is recorded.

In the Mesolithic its use is a bit more widespread (e.g. Ďáblice near Prague), but due to the very regionalized and diversified raw material use in this period in the region ( Vencl 1990 ), it is nowhere predominant.
No use outside the Czech Republic is known previous to the Neolithic, but as the finds of other Bohemian quartzites like Skršin at distances up to 140 kilometers show, it is quite possible this will change in the (near) future as this type of material becomes more widely known.

The most widespread use of quartzite of the Tušimice-type clearly dates to the Neolithic, but only in the immediate surroundings of the mining site is it the predominant material. Even within Northern Bohemia it is nearly always less abundant than quartzite of the Skršin-type .
The best illustration for differential use and with it probably restricted acces to the raw material comes from South-East Germany, from Early Neolithic (Linear Pottery/LBK) settlements around Dresden (unpublished work by the author). Here, about 65 kilometers from the sources of both Skršin and Tušimice quartzite, the latter is characteristic of the youngest (Šárka) phase of the LBK, whereas the former is clearly more abundant during the earlier phases. Even more remarkable are the differences in use of both materials: Skršin-type quartzite has clearly entered the sites as raw material and was worked on the spot, Tušimice quartzite is nearly exclusively present as blades/bladelike flakes with a very high incidence of tools.

Finds of Tušimice quartzite in Neolithic contexts are known up to 240 kilometers from its source near Kramolín in Moravia (Oliva 1990, cited in Malkovský & Vencl 1995 ) and is regularily found in all of Bohemia, reaching the well known site of Bylany, over 140 kilometres to the South-East.

Outside the Czech Republic there are hardly any finds of this well sourceable quartzite published. Apparently it has been noticed in the LBK material from Zwenkau-Harth, south of Leipzig in the former GDR, which agrees well with the (unpublished) find of a bifacially retouched Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age arrowhead from Zauschwitz near Borna, also south of Leipzig. On the other hand, Tušimice quartzite is probably much more abundant in the regions adjacent to Bohemia, but it is either not noticed, confused with other raw materials, or worse, downright ignored like in Pratsch 1999 .
From this last publication comes our favourite quote on sourcing lithics: "From the settlement come 10 artifacts (..) which are made on light gray, fine-grained quartzites. This raw material probably comes from deposits" ( translation by the author )

During the Bronze Age the distribution of this raw material is more restricted and no finds outside Bohemia are known, although a few pieces from Saxony (South-East Germany) could date from this period.

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Tušimice, Chomutov district

Locality: Industrial zone around the Tušimice power plant, site of the former village of Tušimice, Chomutov district, Czech Republic.
Synonyms: CZ 1 mining site Lech & Mateiciucová 1995a according to the appendix to the 'Bochum catalogue on prehistoric flint mines in Europe', Seventh International Flint Symposium ( Archaeologia Polona 33): 261-533. Strangely enough the new edition of the Bochum catalogue ( 5000 Jahre Feuersteinbergbau ), does not list any of the four known prehistoric flint and quartzite mines in the Czech Republic.
On some very old maps, the name of the site might be given as Tuschmitz, being the German name of the former village.
Geographic description: Formerly a low hill along the Lužický stream, a tribituary of the Ohře (Eger) river, 3 kilometers east of Kadaň in Northern Bohemia. Now the site of a large power plant in the middle of a landscape devastated by open cast lignite mining and various other unpleasant industrial activities.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 50 22' 25" N
Long. 013 20' 20" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)

Co-ordinate precision: The co-ordinates above are taken off a scanned small-scale road map so do not put to much faith in them to lead you towards a accessible source of high quality quartzite (which doesn't exist anymore anyway). Visual navigation towards the power plant will do the trick if you are within several kilometers of the site.
Other topographical information: The easiest and fastest way to get to Tušimice, no matter from which direction you come, is first to drive to Kadaň. From the centre of the town you take road 568 leading east towards Březno. Shortly after you leave the town, you can already seen the power station ca. 4 kilometers away. On the accessroads to the premises, there are no signs telling you to keep out or forbid tresspassing, so having a look is no problem. Finding quartzites, however, is.
Additional information: Powerplant on top of the only known occurence
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
  This view of the area is taken from the south, near the large reservoir created by damming off a large tract of the Ohře river. Occurences of quartzites, presumably of the Tušimice-type, are reported for quite a large area around here, especially near Rokle, ca. 3 km southwest of Kadaň (map in Malkovský & Vencl 1995 ).
On a survey of the region in the spring of 1999, we were unable to confirm any of the locations. We did indeed find some quartzites, but the were either of a completely different type like near Běšicky chochol on the northern bank of the resevoir, or of extremely inferior quality, near Rokle. Deposits of high-quality material might still be around, but this seems unlikely, as in that case these probably would have been exploited instead of the labour-intensive mining in Tušimice.
Visitors information: The nearest town is Kadaň, 5 kilometers to the West, but as we visited the site only on day-trips or operating out of Most, we are unable to give details about the infrastructure there.
During summer, the Nechranice resevoir to the south is very popular for bathing with the local population, so surveying of the banks by fully-equipped archaeologists does attract quite some attention.
Sampling information: As the site is thourougly destroyed, or at least made completely unaccessible by the construction of the power plant, sampling is difficult. On the grounds of the plant, there is a scattering of reworked material.
We found some, even of reasonable quality, on a heap of rubble and some smaller pieces as paving for a track in the northwest corner of the terrain, but in all the chances of finding a-grade material are slight.
For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (94 KBytes).
Sample of whiteish veined variety
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
Sample description: The sample we took consists mostly of quite small pieces, mostly of less-then-perfect quality, of both the classical as well as the whiteish type. As the classical variety is better illustrated by the archaeological sample , we only bring a photo of the piece that was used for one of the thin sections. It is of good quality and shows the characteristics of the white type with clearly visible denser patches and schliers, but towards the upper edges it shows signs of grading into coarser material. The internal fractures on the lower left are probably caused by being reworked during the construction on the site.

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