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Radiolarite from Wien-Antonshöhe

Material name: Radiolarite from Wien-Antonshöhe
Synonyms: 'Hornstein'
Material (geologic): Jurassic radiolarite

Detail of flake
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000

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General characteristics

(In part adapted from Kirnbauer 1958 and Ruttkay 1970 and 1980)

Geographical setting: The "Antonshöhe" is a low hill, reaching 356 m asl. in the southwestern part of Vienna, the Austrian capital. Administratively it belongs to the 23rd district, the former separate village of Mauer. Geologically, the Antonshöhe is a Late Jurassic cliff of Thitonian/Neocomian age from the so called "Klippenzone" (Cliff zone) and can be classified as the most northern part of the "Kalkalpen" (Chalk Alps). It is a small rest, measuring ca. 400 x 120 meters, wedged between the Flysch and other Tertiary sediments (Kirnbauer 1958).
The site itself lies in a wooded area and is a former quarry, measuring ca. 120x40 meters, where between 1880 and 1940 road-metal was extracted. The site was declared a natural monument in 1956. In the quarry two types of parent rock are exposed: 'white layers' and 'red layers'. The white ones are more massive and contain only little radiolarite of a blackish colour and of inferior quality. The 'red layers' are easier to exploit and contain the better quality material, mostly of reddish and greenish colour. All shafts and tunnels (see below) exploit the material in this reddish material. Because of tectonic activity the parent rock, as well as the exploited radiolarite, are broken up in smallish blocks of ca. 10 cm. The banks of radiolarite themselves are mostly no more than 3-6 cm in thickness.
Material and colour: The typical material from Wien-Antonshöhe is a very fine and dense radiolarite with a distinct waxy to greasy lustre. It comes in two varieties: a reddish and a greenish one. The colour of the reddish material is extremely difficult to describe: the nearest colour on the Munsell scale is about 10R 4/2 to 4/3 (weak red) but the stone itself has a slight violet to purple tinge to it. To display the colour truthfully in a digital photo is even harder: whatever we try, it is either too red or too purple. The picture below should be a bit browner, but this seems impossible to achieve without distorting the colour completely. The greenish material is much more straightforward and varies between 10Y 5/1 and 5GY 5/1 (greenish gray) with very light patches like in the two-toned piece at the bottom of the page reaching 5GY 7/1 (light greenish grey).
For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (114 KBytes).
Flake width: ca. 50 mm.
Flake of red radiolarite from Vienna-Mauer
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
Flake of greenish radiolarite from Vienna-Mauer
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (113 KBytes).
Flake width: ca. 30 mm.
  Even with the naked eye the two main structural features are readily visible. The most conspicuous characteristic is the presence of internal fractures, caused by tectonic influences, some of which are filled with secondary quartz, as is clearly visible in the picture at the top of this page and in the thin sections below. A less marked property is an abundance of white and glassy dots/grains up to ca. 1/10 millimeter in diameter. These are very clearly visible in the thin sections below, especially in plane polarised light. Out tame geologist tells us they mostly consist of calcite (pers. comm. M. Elburg), probably a secondary phenomenon. Further petrological characterisation will follow in one of the next updates.
For a full-blown picture of thin section,
click here (111 KBytes).
Field of view: 9 mm.
Thin section in plane polarised light
Foto: Marlina Elburg, 2000
Thin section in cross polarised light
Foto: Marlina Elburg, 2000
For a full-blown picture of thin section,
click here (105 KBytes).
Field of view: 9 mm.
Other information: The Antonshöhe has been known as a prehistoric site since 1924 as human skeletal remains were found during quarrying activities. Following the discovery of another grave in 1929, part of the site was excavated and the first mining shafts were recognized. Unfortunately, the excavator died before his findings were fully published and it took until 1970 before a comprehensive account of the site was published (Ruttkay 1970).

The mining itself was done in open pits up to 2.5 meters deep as well as in deep shafts with depths of 10-12 meters with adjoining narrow tunnels. The whole area is covered in a layer of mining waste up to 2.5 meters deep. Especially on the location where we did our main sampling (see below ) quite enormous amounts of reworked material with ample flakes of radiolarite are to be found. The amount of extracted radiolarite has been estimated at about 1300 metric tons (Kirnbauer 1958, thereafter cited in all publications), but this calculation is full of possibles and assumptions and this figure can be a whole lot smaller or larger as the extend of the prehistoric mining is completely unknown. Only 5 shafts were noticed at the end of the workings in the quarry. No geophysical survey or any other attempts at mapping have been undertaken until now.

Dating the mines is, unlike most other sites, very straightforward thanks to several burials with chronologically easily identifiable grave-goods. In all, the rests of seven individuals, ranging in age from newly born to adult, were found in six 'graves'. All bodies had been interred in the filling of the shafts. The accompanying pottery belongs to the cultural horizon following the so-called Painted Ware, a subdivision of the middle to later Neolithic Lengyel-culture. No absolute dating of the site is available, or at least it isn't published, but as the later phases of the Lengyel culture date towards the end of the fifth millennium, it is safe to assign a later fifth/earlier fourth millennium date to the mines in Mauer.

Knapping notes: During our sampling, we didn't find good-quality material sufficiently large to experiment with, so we can't give any first-hand experiences. The flakes we found, however, show a good conchoidal fracture and a smooth ventral face. Problems will arise due to internal fracturing and the quartz veins that are present in nearly every piece we saw. The material is good for flakes and small blades, but probably unsuitable for larger tools and long regular blades.
Archaeological description: All in all, the archaeological literature on the site is a bit scanty: after the two publications by Kirnbauer (1958) and Ruttkay (1970), no fundamental new data on the site or the distribution of the radiolarite from the mines have been published. Especially the last fact is a bit awkward: although the material from Antonshöhe seems to be quite typical, no thorough description has ever been published and no attempt has been made to differentiate it from other similar materials from the Jurassic zone in central and alpine Europe. Even more than forty years later, the remark from Kirnbauer: 'At the moment, nothing can be said about the trade-routes and distribution of the hornstone from Mauer' still holds true.

One of the very few references to radiolarite of the Antonshöhe-type as a raw material we found is the Early Neolithic site of Brunn II in Austria (Gronenborn 1997a), where approx. 60 % of the lithic finds are made of this radiolarite.
In general, Austria is a bit of a white spot on the European map of lithic distribution, something which becomes especially clear when looking at neighbouring countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary, where the sourcing of lithics has been carried to great lengths in the last decades.

We expect the Radiolarite of the Antonshöhe-type to have a fairly wide distribution within Austria and probably the neighbouring countries. Towards the east (into Hungary) its importance will probably rapidly decline due to the occurrence of high-quality radiolarites like the Szentgál-type in the Central Transdanubian Mountains. The main problem in identifying the distribution-networks will be the difficulty to differentiate between this radiolarite and similar materials that occur in the very long band of Jurassic mountains and hills that stretches between Switzerland and eastern Poland.

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Locality: Antonshöhe, Mauer, City-district of Vienna (Wien)
Synonyms: Wien-Mauer
Geographical description: The site is a former quarry on a lowish hill (the Antonshöhe) at the western border of the city of Vienna. The woods around it are a major recreational area for the inhabitants of Vienna, so beware of joggers, mountainbikes etc. Apart from that, the quarry itself seems to be a favourite with schools for an outing: as we visited the site at least three groups of shouting and running, completely uninterested kids were driven around the site. On the north-eastern edge of the quarry there is a information-board with a plan of the site and some archaeological information.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 48 08' 54" N
Long. 016 14' 41" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Co-ordinate precision: The co-ordinates were taken with a handheld GPS at the eastern side of the quarry where we did our sampling, precision within one arc-second. The quarry itself is about 40 by 120 meters so you will find yourself sufficiently near the site to be able to find it.
Other topographical information: The first thing you will need to navigate your way through Vienna is a good city map, to be found at any large filling-station in a large radius around Vienna (we bought ours at the Czech-Austrian border). Driving through Vienna is, like in any large city, not very straightforward due to a large amount of one-way streets not indicated on the map and plentiful diversions. After crossing the city, we left the car at a small parking lot at the end of the "Maurer lange Gasse" and covered the last few hundred meters on foot. On the map we used (Freytag & Berndt, Wien Gesamtplan 1:25 000) the Antonshöhe was indicated, highly facilitating our journey.
Additional information: Sampling location with neolithic waste
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
  In the picture above you see the site where we did most of our sampling and where all stones depicted on this page come from. It lies at the eastern side of the quarry and the whole exposure consists of reworked material from the prehistoric shafts.
Visitors information: As we did our sampling 'on the fly' while en route from the Czech Republic to Hungary, we don't have any information on the local infrastructure. Mauer is a residential area, and we didn't see much in the line of pubs or the like, but that is probably due to the concentrated driving and navigation on our part. Vienna itself is a very interesting city with loads of musea and other cultural highlights, certainly meriting a full journey. But from the point of view of lithic sourcing, Austria is kind of underdeveloped.
One important information for all visitors in Austria: if you are travelling by car and want to use one of the motorways in the country, you will have to buy a so called "Autobahnvignette" directly at the border. Getting caught without one will get you a hefty fine.
Sampling information: Although the northern end of the quarry is made up of nice cliff-like exposures, the only material we found here was the low-grade blackish variety, unsuitable for knapping. During our visit we were unable to find the good stuff in situ, but the mining waste from the original shafts at the eastern side yielded a good pick of (mostly smaller) flakes and blocks of the typical material.

Even if there is ample material for any visiting samplers, be careful what you take. There are no signs telling you to keep out or not to pick up material, but as it is a natural monument and a protected site, the local law will probably and rightly be not happy if you start removing truckloads of material. We took a sample of a few dozen flakes to cover the full spectrum of material present. As nearly all material is either of the reddish or the greenish variety, a small amount will do nicely for any reference collection.

For a full-blown picture of this sample, click here (108 KBytes).
Width of block: ca. 85 mm.
Block of radiolarite with attached parent material
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
Fragment of radiolarite showing both major colours
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
For a full-blown version of this picture, click here (103 KBytes).
Width of flake: ca. 35 mm.
Sample description: Apart from the two typical flakes featuring above and the enlarged view at the top we took two specimens that are worth depicting. The piece on the left is the only larger fragment we found with the parent rock still attached. It shows that the flakable material occurs in relatively narrow banks of only a few centimeters thickness. As you can see, there is no sharp boundary between the silicious material and the enveloping limestone, but the two grade into each other. The whole piece is quite badly fractured, with some veins of quartz running trough the limestone.

The other piece is more of a curiosity, as it is the only example of both types of radiolarite in the same flake we found. The white patches on the surface are redeposited limestone.


Last modified on:
April 27, 2008
Contents primarily by:
Rengert Elburg
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