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Avas Hill quartzite

Material name: Avas Hill quartzite
Synonyms: Avas hill silex; limnic quartzite
Material (geologic): Tertiary (Miocene) "limnic quartzite" (peri-volcanic silcrete)

Detail of limnic quartzite
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001

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General characteristics

(In part adapted from Simán 1995 and Name year

Geographical setting: Television tower on Avas hill
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
  Miskolc, the third largest town in Hungary, lies in the northeastern part of the country directly to the east of the Bükk Mountains. Here several geological areas meet: the Mesozoic formations of the Bükk Mountains (see for instance Bükkszentászló), the Tertiary of the Bükk Foothills and the Quaternary sediments from the Great Hungarian Plain. The Avas Hill, site of the first discovered flint mine in Hungary, lies directly to the southwest of the city-centre. It is a quite pronounced hill, predominantly formed by Miocene volcanic activity, rising about 100 metres over the valley of the Szinva, reaching an altitude of about 230 metres asl.
The hill is now a park with an arboreum and topped by a large TV-tower as can be seen in the photo above. Even now, there is still some volcanic activity in the area, as can be seen from the mineral waters at the nearby spa of Miskolctapolca.
Material and colour: The siliceous material from Avas Hill belongs to the large and very problematic group of "limnic quartzites", also known as hydroquartzite. Basically, this name is used for a very heterogeneous group of peri- and postvolcanic silcretes, that can range from cemented quartzites to chalcedony and something we would call "replacement opal". The only thing in common is their genesis in a volcanic environment, where silica-rich waters permeate (volcano)klastic sediments. As the name is so well established in the (mainly Hungarian) literature, we list the materials from this group under the quartzites, although this would mean that quite a lot of other silcretes would have to be classified as quartzites as well.

The material in our sample is very heterogeneous, with a predominance of whitish, pinkish and reddish brown hues, for Munsell-codes, see the sample description below. All pieces show slight to clear banding and are (slightly) translucent. Fresh fractures show slightly greasy lustre. The structure is not too fine with numerous impurities and occasional to frequent crystal-lined cavities.

Alas, until now there is no way to tell the limnic quartzite and hydroquatzites from different sites apart. The material is quite common in the Hungarian Tertiary ranges like the Mátra and Zemplén Mountains and in the foothills of the Bükk Mountains, but similar material is also known from Slovakia and other volcanic regions. The variability in colour and structure is bewildering, something that is reflected in the chemical composition too (e.g. Biró et al. 1984). Due to the heterogeneity of this type of material, a subdivision in geographical separate groups will also be impossible in the future.

Other information: Avas Hill has been known as a prehistoric mining site since 1928 as during construction work numerous lithic artefacts had been found. Subsequent partial excavation uncovered several shafts with a depth of up to 6 metres and at least one probable gallery. On occasion of newer excavations, which failed to bring new evidence, the old field-reports were reassessed and published. Even after the "re-excavation" of the original documentation the situation on the site remains a bit unclear. It seems there are three banks of andesetic tuff in the underground of the hill. The uppermost lies in a dept of 2-4 metres under the surface, has a thickness of approx half a metre and didn't contain any silicified material. The two lower banks were the ones the miners were interested in. The middle bank lies 1 to 2.5 metres under the upper one, with the lower bank a half to one metre underneath it. As is to expected, the upper bank was broken through and the two lower banks, in one case with a gallery, exploited. The testing of the extracted material seems to have taken place in the shafts themselves, with further working of the raw material in the immediate surrounding of the mine. By the look of the stratigraphy, the shafts weren't backfilled and only gradually filled up by natural resedimentation.

The dating of the mine is extremely uncertain. The lithics were, in the beginning of the 20th century, believed to belong to the "Campignian", a pseudo-culture mostly associated with Neolithic flint mines. There are a few Neolithic finds from the fills, but if this was reworked material or has any connection with the mining site is unclear. An investigation of the charcoal showed only species still present in the region, and no difference in the composition between the separate levels or pits could be discerned. Further problems arise as there have been gunflint workshops in the town in the Middle Ages and more recently the material was used in producing glass. As long as no radiometric dating of the charcoal or of the human skeleton (although here also the association with the mine is unsure) found in the excavation has been carried out, this point has to remain open.

Knapping notes: As we only collected some scraps from the surface of the former mining site, and no primary exposure is accessible, we didn't have any material for experimental knapping. In appearance it is very similar to several other limnic quartzites we found in Northern Hungary, and the knapping properties will probably be the same. Due to the inhomogeneity of the material and many cavities, as well as the often slightly layered structure make it a far from ideal lithic. The fractures don't really run and snap fractures or stuck flakes are frequent. Some parts or blocks are so dense they can be worked like a fine quartzite or coarse flint, but they don't make good blades. It will probably be a good material for larger bifaces like handaxes.
Archaeological description: Due to its mediocre quality, limnic quartzites are mostly a raw material of local to regional importance only. As most varieties can occur at different sources, and the material isn't distinguishable on its chemistry either, the sourcing of limnic quartzite is in most cases impossible and quite pointless. Although we have no positive data, we guess the Avas Hill mine produced only for strictly local needs.

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Avas Hill
Locality: Avas Hill, Miskolc, Hungary
Synonyms: Miskolc-Avas Hill; Mining-site H 1, according to the catalogue of the museum in Bochum (Weisgerber et al. (eds.) 1999); FlintSource sample 217.
Geographical description: The former mining site is located on the northern edge of Avas hill in the city of Miskolc. Most of the area seems to have been either excavated or was destroyed during the construction of the TV tower. It now is a park with an arboreum and a popular look-out point over the city.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 48° 05' 58" N
Long. 020° 46' 33" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)
Co-ordinate precision: As usual the position was taken with a hand held GPS receiver. The coordinates might be off a bit, due to the trees and the steep slope, but with the picture below it is clear enough where the material came from.
Other topographical information: To find your way to the site, you will need a city map and a reasonably good navigator. Driving through Miskolc is not something you do for the fun of it. Avas lies directly to the southwest of the city-centre, just south of the small river Szinva, which runs West-East through the city.
How we did get there is still a bit of a mystery, but suddenly we were in a maze of narrow streets at the foot of a steep hill which should, according to our 1:25 000 city map (Várostérkép), be Avas. There is an easy way up with stairs, directly at the TV tower, but as we were a bit too far to the east, we found our way up through some alleys and tracks.
Additional information: Destroyed neolithic mining site
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
  In the picture above you are looking at the not very exciting spot were we did our sampling. With the tower in the background it is easy enough to identify.
Visitors information: Miskolc is certainly not the most exciting town to be found in Hungary. It is the second largest city in the country, but it is something of an industrial moloch. To be honest, we didn't venture into the city centre as we drove on into the Bükk mountains, to visit Bükkszentászló. On our way in we saw quite a few hotels at the edge of the city, but they didn't look if anybody spent the night in them voluntarily. Our travel guide mentions some places to stay and eat, but we can't give any personal advise.
As we didn't go into the city we didn't visit the local Ottó Herman Museum, which is probably quite worthwhile because of its large archaeological collection, especially with material from the Late Neolithic Bükk Culture.
Sampling information: Expedition towards the summit of Avas Hill
Foto: Andreas Kinne, 2001
  In the picture above you see two of our team (Matthias and Rengert) in full gear storming to the summit of Avas Hill in Miskolc. As we visited the site we just came from a sampling spree in the Zemplén Mountains, and on the road for the Bükk Mountains, we were still fully equipped as we sampled this decidedly suburbian environment.
We surveyed all of the hill, but didn't locate any good sampling site or exposure, apart from a very small stretch directly below the TV tower at the northern side of the area (see photo above). Here, just along the path and stairs we collected some surface material, very probably knapping waste from the damaged mining site. As we didn't take a large sample (there wasn't that much material around) we don't know if it is representative of the full range of variation of this type of raw material, but as the colours and structure are quite similar, we think that it is fairly typical.
  Small flake of fine material
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Small flake of fine, whitish "limnic quartzite"
length 38 mm
Piece of pinkish stuff
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Piece of cloudy, pinkish material
size 30 mm
Sample description: The thin flake at the left above is quite translucent and "cloudy" material. The colours range from plain white (N8) to 10YR 8/2-3 (very pale brown) with some pinkish gray schliers (5YR 6/2). The surface has a slightly greasy lustre. The piece next to it is already a bit more colourful with predominant 2.5YR 7/1 and 10R 6/3 (both pale red), 10R 5/6 (red) and white (N8) with a dark grayish brown (10YR 4/2) patch towards the top. Most parts are translucent, but the more strongly coloured material stands out as darker clouds. Lustre is again slightly greasy.
At the left hand side below you see a brownish translucent, slightly banded flake with strong greasy to silky lustre. All dominant colours present are on the 5YR page of the Munsell color charts: 4/4 and 4/3 (reddish brown) to 5/2-3 (reddish gray-brown). The small spots and lighter bands are around 10YR 7/2 (light gray) to 7/3 (very pale brown). The specimen to right still retains part of the white (N9) with gray (5Y 5-6/1) and very hard cortex. The dark part under the cortex and light band in the middle are slightly translucent, the rest of the stone is opaque. Colour varies between 7.5YR 4/4 and 5/4 (brown) to 7.5YR 7/1 (light gray) and 10YR 8/1 (and white).
The piece at the bottom is translucent and banded and shows slightly yellowish patina at 2.5Y 5-6/4-6 (light yellowish brown to olive yellow). The part directly under the very thin cortex is brown (7.5YR 4/4), the rest of the stone varies between 2.5Y 6/2 and 7/1 (light brownish gray and light gray) to 5YR 5/3 (reddish brown).
  Flake of glassy silcrete
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Flake of reddish brown glassy silcrete
size 26 mm
Flake with cortex
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Flake with rest of thick cortex
length 46 mm
  Flake with slight patina
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Piece of banded material with slight patina
size 39 mm


Last modified on:
August 4, 2002
Contents primarily by:
Rengert Elburg
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