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Markgräfler Land
(Baden-Württemberg, Germany)

Geographical setting: The Markgräfler Land is the southwesternmost region of Germany, also known as the Three Countries Corner ("Dreiländereck" in German), roughly between de cities of Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany, Basel in Switzerland and Mulhouse in France. The area takes its name from Karl Friedrich, the Grand Duke of Badenia ("Markgraf von Baden"), who united a number of small dependencies of Austria, Basel and several local rulers in the second half of the 18th century.
The region is bordered in the West by the Rhine, in the North by the small towns of Staufen and Heitersheim, and in the south by the valley of the Wiese river, a tributary of the Rhine which enters the Rhine at Weil am Rhein, on the Swiss-German Border. At the other side of the Wiesental lies another chert-rich region, the Triassic hills of Dinkelberg.
The eastern border of the Markgräflerland is not really fixed, and runs somewhere on the western Paleozoic heights of the Black Forest ("Schwarzwald"), but we are only interested in the area west of the large fault which marks the boundary between the Black Forest and the Rhine rift system. This major geological feature runs in the region more or less north-south around 7° 40' E.
Stuck between the edge of the crystalline massive and the subsiding Rhine-valley there is a large slab of Mesozoic sediments, mostly of Jurassic age, that come to the surface between the small towns of Müllheim and Kandern, and near the Rhine at Kleinkems. The rest of the area is mostly covered in Loess, with locally some stretches of Tertiary sediments.

Apart from having some interesting flintsources, the region is also worthwhile for several other reasons, of which the most important are the large vineyards. Less well-known than its French counterpart at the other side of the Rhine, the Alsace, the Markgräflerland produces some of the best wines in Germany. Like in the Alsace, most grapes grown are pinot varieties, which in German are called Burgunder, as well as some Riesling and Gewürtztraminer. Luckily the high-yield/low-quality Müller-Turgau grape is loosing terrain quickly, as it is mostly this grape, used in the infamous sweetish Liebfraumilch and Piespotter, that gave German wines their awful reputation.
One speciality of the Markgräfler land which shouldn't be missed is the Gutedel, abroad better known by its French name Chasselas, a grape that was introduced from Switzerland by the aforementioned Grand Duke Karl Friedrich around 1780.

Most wines in the region are produced by the cooperatives, but there are quite a few independent wine makers too. Although not strictly in the Markgräflerland, but at the Tuniberg, West of Freiburg near enough, my favorite winemaker in the area is Clemens Lang. A tip I'm probably going to regret, but make sure you get your hands on a few bottles of his Spätburgunder Rotwein, ripened in barriques and his Spätherbst, not cheap, but worth every cent.
The whole area belongs to the Baden wine making-region in which the addition of sugar to wine or the unfermented grape-juice is not allowed. This mostly results in quite light wines, but as the region has the most favorable climate of the whole of Germany, some years can be quite strong, like in the terrific summer of 2003, in which some wines produced in the area reached a formidable 15% in alcohol by volume.

Similarities and differences: There are three main varieties of flint/chert in the Markgräflerland that have been used in prehistory:
  • primary material in the Upper Oxfordian limestones at Kleinkems.
  • residual Upper Jurassic chert like the material from Liel and Hertingen, some of which has been heavily impregnated with iron-salts, creating the so-called Bean-ore Jasper, of which the "Blood-jasper" is a variety.
  • silifications in Tertiary limestones at the Tüllinger Berg near Lörrach.
Only of the materials from primary contexts the exact stratigraphic positions are known. The Kleinkems "jasper" as it is known locally is found in four seams near the top of the Upper Oxfordian oncolithic limestones, that in itself constitute the upper part of the larger unit of the Oxfordian "Korallenkalke" (Coral-limestones), formerly known as the "Rauracian" limestones. The silex from the Tüllinger Kalke, which are limnic carbonate sediments, have a Oligocene age.

Although the secondary material in the region is quite diverse, it is similar enough to propose a uniform, Upper Jurassic, age. The most striking difference between some of the secondary materials and the primary flint from Kleinkems is the colour, but the residual material from Schliengen and Liel shows that all gradations between low-chroma greys and intensely red en yellow material are present. It seems the original material has been grey and mostly banded, just like the Kleinkemser flint. Surprisingly enough, the discolouration, mostly towards the red, starts in the center of the core, the exact process of which is unclear at the moment. Very striking are those cases where a red core is surrounded by a yellowish band, like in the piece from Auggen, or still more spectacular, the piece from Schliengen, were also a fissure is affected by the red-to-yellow colour-shift.

When looking at the structure of the different flints, it seems very probable that there is a marked shift in facies between the different materials. On the one hand there are the extremely fine cherts from Kleinkems with only the occasional fossil, on the other hand there is the material from Liel which abounds in large foraminifera and ostracods, often lined with quartz crystals, with the chert from Hertingen taking an intermediate position. This could indicate a increase in energy as well as a decrease in depth towards the Northwest, in the direction of the crystalline basement of the Black Forest, although this should be checked with the paleogeography of the area.
The geographical/geological position of the residual materials is another strong indication for the fact that all material comes from the same stratigraphic position: all samples (with the exception of the probable stray find from Auggen) come from patches of residual loams, indicated as deposits of "Bean ores" (Bohnerz, see for a further explanation on the page on Blutjaspis) on the geological map, which lie on the Upper Jurassic Korallenkalke. This should mean, that the top part of these limestones, which contain the flint at Kleinkems, was dissolved, leaving the loams and flint as residual materials. Until now, no flints are know from the younger part of Oxfordian limestones, the "sequanian" layers (unit oxN on the geological map) that form the top of the Jurassic sediments around here.

  Holy flints
Not what we would do with a good nodule of flint: cross with slabs of Kleinkems chert in the church of Blansingen.
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2005
Extractability and prehistoric use: If the geological situation is becoming clearer, the archaeological research on the siliceous materials in the region is far from satisfactory. We'll start with the distribution of the different cherts, and can be very concise on the subject: hardly anything is known. There is only one publication in the wider region that gives an overview of the prehistoric use of the flints from the Markgräflerland, Affolter 2002, but this research is restricted to Switzerland.
Another publication deals with the distribution of lithic raw materials in the area around the sources of Kleinkems, Hertingen etc. (Kaiser 2006), but not much information can be gained from this paper because it deals with fifteen sites between Efringen-Kirchen, Kandern, Auggen and the Rhine that are only known from surface-collections. Even so, one interesting detail becomes apparent: the chert from the mining site of Kleinkems seems to have been used only in the immediate vicinity of the flint mine. Even a few kilometres away the main raw material is residual chert like that from Hertingen.
Some remarks on the distribution of Kleinkems chert and Blutjaspis can be found in Zimmermann 1995, but it seems all materials are of regional importance only. This is quite surprising, as the material from Kleinkems is one of the best cherts in a very large region indeed.

The research on prehistoric mining is far from complete too, as only in Kleinkems excavations on a somewhat larger scale have been carried out (Lais 1948, Schmid 1980, and most recently at last a publication in English: Engel & Siegmund 2005). The only other site that has been dug, but with very unsatisfactory results, is Schliengen (Unser 1977). For two other sites flintmining has been suggested: Schliengen and Hertingen, but this is highly doubtful as both sites are located near or on deposits of iron-ore that have been under exploitation since the Early Iron Age. We suspect that all signs of mining activity around these places is connected with the ore, and not with the flints. Nonetheless the sources at Hertingen en Schliengen have been included in the catalogue of prehistoric mining sites (Weisgerber et al. (eds.) 1999), but as with so many entries for Germany in this catalogue we do agree that they represent prehistoric sources, in some cases maybe even extraction points, but highly doubt that they are real mines.
The same applies for Liel-Schneckenberg, where prehistoric mining has been suggested too (Affolter 2002), as the geological map shows the site to be associated with ore-deposits too.


Last modified on:
December 29, 2007
Contents primarily by:
Rengert Elburg
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