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Profen-type quartzite

Material name: Quartzite of the Profen-type
Synonyms: "Zauschwitzer Quarzit"
Material (geologic): Tertiary (Eocene) quartzite

Detail of flake
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001

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General characteristics

Geographical setting: View of former topography
Foto: Andreas Kinne, 2000
  This material can be found in a geographically restricted area on the border of the states of Saxony (Sachsen) and Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt) in the industrial heartland of the former German Democratic Republic, now plain Germany. Once a fertile, slightly hilly region with very good soils thanks to the well drained Loess cover, its scenery is now thoroughly destroyed by large-scale open-cast lignite mines. The main river in the region, the White Elster (Weiße Elster) has been diverted to make room for the Zwenkau lignite strip-mine and the skyline is dominated by the smokestacks of several huge power plants. In all, not the region where you will spend your holidays. In fact, apart from this quite nice quartzite, there is nothing to keep you any longer than strictly necessary, a fact clearly illustrated by the picture of the nice view above.
Material and colour: The Profen-quartzite is quite dense, but with the original grains still visible, giving it the appearances of fine sugar-lumps, not unlikely the somewhat coarser Bečov-type Quartzite from Bohemia. In a fresh state its mass is mostly white or very light grey (N9 to N7), occasionally darker material around 10YR 4/1 can be found. Not too thick flakes are translucent, the transmitted light being yellowish brown. Patination is white, but occurs only occasionally, even presumably prehistoric artefacts from surface-sites still look quite fresh, the only difference with freshly struck flakes being the dirt in the pores between the grains. Most typical of the Profen/Zauschwitz quartzite however are the small dark grains that are loosely dispersed in the matrix, best visible in the sample from Profen and in the picture at the top. This feature sets the Profen/Zauschwitz-quartzite apart from all similar materials from the wider region we have seen up till now, but it can occur in other types of material as well, see e.g. Lenderscheid, although this type of quartzite is mostly more yellowish.
Other information: Geological block-diagram of the Profen-mine
Foto: Andreas Kinne, 2000 (Graphic: MIBRAG)

For a larger view of the geological block-diagram click here( 52 KByte)
  Exposure of the Profen/Zauschwitz-quartzite is extremely poor, and getting a sample means you will either have to trespass or violate the local monuments law, with the fist option clearly preferable. The only place where the material is exposed in a more or less primary geological context is the Profen mine, a still very active open-cast lignite exploitation. Access, apart from a 'look-out point' between Hohenmölsen and Theißen where you can see all the devastation you will be wanting for the rest of the year, is strictly forbidden for the public. The quartzite in this mine is removed as part of the overburden and then dumped in the hole left over after the extraction of the main (Upper Eocene) seam. The not too brilliant picture above is a photo of a block-diagram taken of a explanatory sign at the look-out point (German: 'Aussichtspunkt') mentioned above. The quartzite is found under a minor seam (German: 'Flöz') and probably of Eocene age too.

The other possibility to get a sample is to pillage the surface-site near Zauschwitz mentioned below. As this is a known archaeological site, you will be violating the saxonian monuments law, which could be a very bad idea: offences against it can be punished with heavy fines and even imprisonment up to two years.
Other exposures or even occurrences are not known at the moment, but we are looking for them in the very small patches of tertiary sediments that come to the surface in the area.

Knapping notes: The knapping properties of the Profen/Zauschwitz-quartzite are far from ideal. Although the grains are very well cemented and the fractures run through them, they still influence the "run" of the waves negatively. It requires quite some force to detach a flake and due to the many interfaces between matrix/cement and the quartz grains they have a tendency to shatter. If you invest a lot of time in core-preparation you might be able to run off a small series of not-too-fine blades, but the stuff is mostly suitable for flakes only. On the other hand, the nearly unlimited size of the blocks (those seem to reach dimensions in the magnitude of meters) makes a good material to produce hand-axes. Although these are up to now unknown in the archaeological record, sites like Lenderscheid and Liedberg with similar material have been heavily exploited during the earlier Paleolithic.
Archaeological description: Apart from occasional finds in (mostly Early) Neolithic complexes in the immediate vicinity of the deposits, the large surface site between Zauschwitz and Großstorkwitz (see below) is the only real indication for prehistoric use. Only a few hundred meters from this locality, lies one of the richest archaeological sites in Saxony, Zauschwitz. Unfortunately, most of the results of the rescue excavations here remain unpublished and the material is quite unaccessible in the storerooms of the Archaeological Service, so nothing can be said about the frequency of quartzites in the lithic industries here.
A cursory inspection of the selected lithic "goodies" (arrowheads and like instruments) showed a preference for baltic (erratic) flint, but with some interesting imports of Skršin and Tušimice-type quartzites, as well as a possible specimen of Bavarian tabular chert. Together with two pieces of imported obsidian (Baumann & Fritzsche 1973), and the archaeological law that lithics tend to attract more lithics, these could be indications that some kind of exploitation of the local quartzites has taken place here.
Thanks and acknowledgements: We would like to thank Uwe Reuter of the Archaeological Service of Saxony (Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen), who brought this material to our attention and was so kind to "re-excavate" the surface-finds from Zauschwitz/Großstorkwitz from the stores of the institute as well as several other finds from the unpublished excavations of Zauschwitz.

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Locality: Profen-Süd, open cast mine, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany.
Synonyms: N/A
Geographical description: The large open cast lignite mine "Profen-Süd", covering at the moment approx. 11 square kilometers, lies on the border of Sachsen-Anhalt with Saxony in Central Germany (a euphemism for the southern part of the former GDR), between the villages of Hohenmölsen and Profen. More information about the mine and its products can be found on the homepage of the MIBRAG (Mitteldeutsche Braunkohlengesellschaft/Central German Lignite Company).
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 51 08' 29" N
Long. 012 08' 037" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Co-ordinate precision: Co-ordinates taken with a hand held GPS-receiver, within ca. 15 metres.
Other topographical information: Basically, there is no easy way to reach the Profen mine, but we'll try to get you as near as possible. The first part is easy: get the A9 motorway, this is one of the main arteries of Germany, connecting Berlin with Munich, and leave it at exit 20 "Weißenfels" towards Zeitz. Instead of following the B 91 towards this city, you'll have to take a left turn, nearly immediately after leaving the A9. After passing through Aupitz, try to connect with the B 176 towards Hohenmölsen. From this town onwards, try to pick up the local road towards Theißen, the look-out point ("Aussichtspunkt") is signposted along this road. As you will have guessed rightly, it is a very good idea to bring a map on a scale of 1:200 000 or preferably larger. Without a car or some other means of transport, it is quite difficult to reach the site.
Additional information: View over the sampling-site and open cast mine
Foto: Andreas Kinne, 2000
  In the picture above, you are looking from the look-out point towards the operating part of the mine. The blocks in the foreground are the reworked rests of the quartzite banks. To get an impression of the sheer scale of this operation, have a look at the illustration below, photographed off an information sign at the mining area. The drawing is not to scale: the whole thing is a lot bigger. Even the miniature sized dumper and excavator under the number 2 are some of the most impressive pieces of equipment you have seen moving about. The size of the other machines is nearly unimaginable if you have never seen a lignite mine in action.
  How to make a really large pit
Foto: Andreas Kinne, 2000 (Graphic: MIBRAG)
Visitors information: As our special envoy for this region, Andreas Kinne, puts it: "The cheerless neighbourhood doesn't invite to linger and should be avoided on bleak autumn days". In other words: get the stones and get out, back to somewhere civilized, which is something of a problem in the region. The next city worth speaking of is Leipzig, but some consolation can be found in one of the numerous pubs in the villages in the area, but don't expect these to be more than basic watering-holes where the range of beverages on offer is mostly limited to very weak coffee and beer.
Sampling information: Like explained above: access to the mine is strictly forbidden to the public. As you can see from the illustrations above, the main reason for this is safety. We didn't take the trouble, but if you ask at the MIBRAG (see link above), you will probably given a permit to visit the mine and might be able to have a look at the ongoing operations. With a bit of luck you might even see the quartzites exposed, as they are lying directly underneath one of the exploited seams.
For a full-blown picture of this sample, click here (79 KBytes). Small flake of typical quartzite
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Lump of quartzite with "cortex"
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
For a full-blown version of this picture, click here (59 KBytes).
For a full-blown picture of this sample, click here (61 KBytes). Flake with rests of patinated surface
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Dark variety from Profen
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
For a full-blown version of this picture, click here (94 KBytes).
Sample description: See the general remarks on the material at the top of this page.

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Locality: Zauschwitz, Borna district, Saxonia, Germany.
Synonyms: "Höhe 137,3"; Großstorkwitz-"Hufen".
Geographical description: The site of Zauschwitz/Großstorkwitz lies in slightly rolling country directly to the west of the floodplain of the Weisse Elster river, approx. 15 km to the southwest of Leipzig surrounded by some of the largest lignite mines in Central Germany.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 51 11' 01" N
Long. 012 15' 22" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Co-ordinate precision: The co-orinates given are those of a triangulation point of the Saxonian State Survey near the highest point of the area. Most material lies to the north of this point.
Other topographical information: If getting to the Profen mine, as explained above, is difficult, reaching the site near Zauschwitz is a veritable expedition into the outback of Central Germany. To get somewhere near, try to pick up the B 2 road between Leipzig and Zeitz. Especially coming from the North (Leipzig), this can be a bit of a problem, as about 7 km to the south of the city the main road, the B 2 changes without any warning into the B 95, and the smaller road that leaves the highway near Zwenkau towards Zeitz becomes the B 2. If you have taken the right exit and are still on the B 2, you leave it just after Löbschütz towards the West, in the direction of Wiederau and Großstorkwitz. Coming from Zeitz follow the B 2 to Rüssen/Kleinstorkwitz and take a left before you enter Löbschütz.
The road you're on now is quite narrow, frequently used by farming machines, bicycles and local drivers who are very unsure at which side of the road they are supposed to drive and have never heard of any form of speed-limit. Beware of cars parked in the middle of the road, especially in or just behind bends, in Wiederau. After approx. 4 km you pass through Großstorkwitz, stay on the main road, which turns to the south under the power line. If you now turn to the left, you will get the view in the photo below. The site lies on the low knoll north of the road.
Bringing a map is definitively a good idea, as after one false turn, you might have quite some trouble to find a road that actually leads somewhere.
Additional information: View of sampling location towards Maschwitz
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
  The photo above was taken from the road from Zauschwitz/Weideroda to the west, looking towards the North. The church you see in the background belongs to Maschwitz, part of the village of Großstorkwitz. The slight rise in the foreground is "Höhe 137,3" (height 137,3 m asl). Most of the material lies on this low hill.
Visitors information: As we did most of our sampling either out of Zwenkau which supports a not-too-good Greek restaurant, but was where the former branch office of the archaeological service was housed, or passing through, we don't have much information on the infrastructure of the area. Lodgings are very scarce around here, as nobody in his right frame of mind wants to spend more time around than strictly necessary. Drive to Leipzig and enjoy whatever city-life is to be found in the former German Democratic Republic, which is still very democratic around here as no fun is to be had by anybody.
Sampling information: WARNING: this is a known and therefore protected archaeological site. You can have a look around, but do not take any material as you could be running in serious trouble. If you pick up any material, e.g. for photographing, drop it again or deliver it to the Archaeological Service (Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen) in Dresden.
Visiting the site during the growing season is quite pointless as it lies on cultivated land that is under a dense cover most of the time between March and September, and lies under snow or is frozen rock solid during most of the winter.
For a full-blown picture of this sample, click here (70 KBytes). Prehistoric (?) flake from Zauschwitz
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Piece of patinated quartzite
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
For a full-blown version of this picture, click here (64 KBytes).
Sample description: N/A
For a full-blown picture of this thin section, click here (88 KBytes). Thin section under plane polarized light
Foto: Marlina Elburg, 2000
Thin section under cross-polarized light
Foto: Marlina Elburg, 2000
For a full-blown version of this thin section, click here (100 KBytes).
  In the name of science, we took one typical piece of quartzite from the site, to make a thin section. As you can see from the picture on the left, it consists mostly of quartz and is therefore not terribly interesting in plane polarized light. The photo on the right shows the same thinny under cross-polarized light, bringing out the quartz grains quite nicely. There is remarkably little cement between the grains for such a dense and knappable quartzite. This is what our geologist Marlina Elburg has to say about the stuff: "clast supported quartzite with fine cryptocrystalline quartz matrix. Most grains have subgrains or undulose extinction. Well sorted, poorly rounded. Few grains of other minerals, mostly (?) tourmaline.". Hopefully we'll be able to bring you more information in one of the future updates.

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