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Szentgál-type radiolarite

Material name: Szentgál-type radiolarite
Synonyms: Transdanubian radiolarite, radiolarite from the Bakony Mountains, Szentgál red flint
Material (geologic): Middle Jurassic (Bathonian-Callovian) radiolarite

Sample from:
Szentgal-Tüzköveshegy
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999

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General characteristics

(In part adapted from Biró & Regenye 1991 and Biró 1995)

Geographical setting: View towards Tuzkoveshegy
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2001
  Szentgál lies in the central part of the Bakony Mountains, the southernmost portion of the Transdanubian Central Mountains. Tüzköveshegy, literally "Flint Mountain", lies about 3 kilometres to the Northwest of the village, just South of the railroad tracks and the main road number 8 (E 66), which connects Székesfehérvar in Hungary with Graz in Austria. The prehistoric mining site is located at the Northern side of the lowish (maximum elevation of 438 meters above sea level), mostly wooded, hill, near the hamlet of Remetetanya. Most part of the Eastern side of the hill has been eaten away by a large quarry.
In the picture above, you are looking from the North towards the Tüzköveshegy. The railroad runs in a slight trough near the row of trees at the foot of the hill. The site itself lies in the woods above the right hand part of the fields and meadows on the hillside.
Material and colour: The radiolarites mined at Tüzköveshegy were formed in the Middle Jurassic (Dogger), and are of Bathonian-Callovian age. Like the synonym "Szentgál red flint" already indicates, is the typical colour of the material from this outcrop red. Apart from really vivid hues around 10R to 2.5YR 4/6 to 3/4 (red to dusky and dark red), we found quite a lot of material of a brownish colour, mostly between 5YR 3/3 (dark reddish brown) and 7.5YR 4/4 (brown) but sometimes even more yellowish up to 10YR 4/4 (dark yellowish brown) and the occurrence of mustard-yellow and dark brown radiolarite has been reported too. One of the most important characteristics is the occurrence of light, 'desilicified' spots and patches, mostly near the cortex. This features sets the radiolarite of the Szentgál-type clearly apart from other red radiolarites, like those from the Northern parts of the Danubian Central Mountains and the Slovak and Polish Carpathians (links coming up). As you can see in the samples below, brownish and red hues can occur as vague bands within the same piece, and some flakes show slight blackish schliers. Held against the light of even a strong lamp, only the edges are somewhat translucent. The better quality material has a silky to slightly greasy lustre.
During our two visits we didn't find any exposures with the material in situ, although we later read that they might be found in the banks of the railroad. The parent rock, as far as we can gather from the ubiquitous mining debris, is a quite soft, partly chalky limestone which is locally silicified, and is called in the Hungarian literature porcellanite. Although technically the term porcellanite can be used to refer to impure chert or indurated/silicified clay or shale, we would like to limit its use to naturally baked clay or porcelain jasper, like the material from Korozluky-Špičák. The foto on the right hand side below shows a fairly typical piece of the partly silicified parent rock at Szentgál, although most of the material is a bit more whitish, like the cortex of the other pieces below.
For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here(43 KBytes).
Piece of Szentgál-radiolarite used for thin-section
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 1999
Flake of so-called "porcelanite"
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2000
For a full-blown picture of sample,
click here (54 KBytes).
Flake width: ca. XXX mm. 
  The picture on the left hand side above shows the piece that was used to make the thin section depicted below. Our in-house geologist (who is a magmatic petrologist, so she is not really thrilled with this kind of stuff) gives us following information on the pictures:
"Again cryptocrystalline quartz with brown pigment and clearer dots. A fibrous quartz vein present. The whitish crust contains more dark pigment than the rest, but has the same granular texture."
The 'clearer dots' might well be the shadows of the skeletons of radiolarites. Interestingly enough, the lighter cortex contains more dark matter. On the first sight, there seems to be very little difference between this material and that from Hárskút, emphasizing that it will be very difficult to find objective criteria to tell the different types apart.
For a full-blown picture of thin section,
click here(99 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(121 KBytes).

Field of view: 9 mm.
Other information: As only a few test-trenches have been dug into the site, not much is known about the exact type of mining that has been going on here. Very clear is, however, that it really is a mining site and not just an extraction point. From the sections it becomes evident that the whole side of the hill is covered with a layer of mining debris that reaches a thickness of several meters in places. The diggings, as far as can be judged from the limited excavations, are in the form of elongated open pits with a depth of 1.5 to over 3 meters. The only mining tools that have been found are quartzite pebbles, which must have been transported to the site. The size of the mining site and therefore the possible amount of radiolarite extracted can only be guessed at. The size has been given as approx. 500 000 square meters, and if you extrapolate from the test-trenches this could mean a staggering 6000 tons of material have been extracted.

The dating of the complex is still very unclear too. A single radiocarbon date gave the somewhat improbable result of 685 + 120 BP, more probably indicating medieval scavenging of the site for flint. The distribution of the material and settlements make a Neolithic dating much more probable. Especially the settlements of the Lengyel culture in the region seem to focus on the site, forming a ring with a radius of about 10 kilometres around the mines, probably indicating a kind of control over the source.

Knapping notes: Right, we didn't get any material fresh out of an outcrop, so the very limited knapping we did was on some larger pieces of mining debris from a tree tip. This might account for a part of the angular shatter and useless broken flakes we ended up with, but certainly not all. It has been said before on these pages, and will be probably repeated a lot of times, radiolarite might look nice, but it is inferior when it comes to knapping. This seems to have been the case too in prehistory, even if the Szentgál-type is, together with some materials from Western Slovakia (Vlára Pass region, link coming up), the only radiolarite that is kind of knappable. Looking at the pieces we gathered at the processing site at the foot of the hill (and left there, this is an archaeological site, remember), nearly 100% showed traces of working, but only an infinitely small proportion could be called real flakes and we didn't find a single blade or blade fragment. It might be that they made only pre-cores over here and the actual knapping was done in one of the nearby settlements, but if you look at any site where Cretaceous flint was mined, the whole area is abound with flakes, blanks, blades and (pre-)cores.
The only way to detach something that might pass for an elongated flake or something blade-like is to knap the stuff with the direction of the cortex. If you leave a part of the cortex to the side of the flake, you get one cutting side, while the silicified limestone gives the whole thing enough stability not to shatter while knapping. Using an antler hammer didn't make much difference either and best results were obtained with a gentle blow with a geological hammer.
Archaeological description: As the radiolarite from Szentgál-Tüzköveshegy is unquestionably one of the visually most attractive raw materials to be found in Central Europe, its distribution is very wide. Apart from that, within Central Hungary it is one of the few sources of higher quality material, if you don't count the very good material from Tevel. Logically, the local exploitation begins in the Paleolithic, although very few sites from this era are know in the region. The first period with intensive use, in the region and further away, is the Early Neolithic Linear Pottery Culture (Linearbandkeramik or LBK). This cultural horizon spread rapidly over large parts of Central and Western Europe during the middle of the sixth millennium B.C., taking with it some of the raw materials from its postulated region of origin in Hungary. In this time, Szentgál radiolarite is found in Austria (e.g. in Brunn am Gebirge), Czech Republic (all of Moravia, but also in the famous settlement of Bylany), Southern Germany (Gronenborn 1997a) and we identified the first pieces in Eastern Germany (printed publication in preparation).

During the Later Neolithic Lengyel-culture, the radiolarite from the Tüzköveshegy is extremely popular in Hungary and judging from the placement of the settlements most mining activity could date from this time. It is in this period that the material reaches its widest distribution, although little is known about its circulation towards the Northwest in this time. The popularity declines rapidly, as with so many siliceous raw materials, during the later periods of prehistory as metal becomes the most prestigious material.

Because of it characteristic colour and texture, we expect the radiolarite of Szentgál to have one of the largest distributions of any raw material in Europe, only to be compared to Carpathian obsidian, tabular chert of the Abensberg-type, Grand Pressigny flint and the like. As the material becomes more widely known, it will probably recognized on many (Early) Neolithic sites at a distance of 500 kilometres and more. For example, the material depicted in a very unclear foto (one of the reasons why we use the Web) in Grillo 1997 (a publication about Neolithic flintwork and raw materials in Southern Germany) as "banded opal from Borovina" looks extremely like Radiolarite from the Bakony Mountains. Something which would be much more likely, as the material from Borovina is never mentioned in the archaeological literature as a "long distance material".
So, if you find a flint of remarkable reddish colour (don't be fooled by heated flint!) showing slight banding or dark schliers, the tell-tale white dots and preferably a part of the porcelain-like cortex still attached anywhere in Central or even all of continental Europe, have a good look at the pictures on this page, or visit the source to make sure.



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Szentgál-Tüzköveshegy

Locality: Tüzköveshegy, Szentgál, Veszprém County, Central Transdanubia, Hungary
Synonyms: N/A
Geographical description: The site lies on the wooded Northern side of Tüzköves Hill, and is easily recognized by the still open test trenches (at least as we visited in 1999 and 2001). As the prehistoric mining site covers most of this part of the hill, you can't miss it, but even as you're standing on top of it, there is hardly anything to see.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 47 08' 12" N
Long. 017 41' 51" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)

Co-ordinate precision: The co-ordinates above are those of the test trenches that are still visible in the woods of Tüzköveshegy, taken with a hand held GPS-receiver. Due to the dense cover, they might be off by a arc-second or so, but as the mining area is quite large, you will find yourself near enough to the spot.

Apart from this area, it is very worthwhile to have a look at the material on the track near the foot of the hill at 47 08' 19" N, 017 41' 39" E. Again, due to the foliage, these co-ordinates may be off in the order of an arc-second.

Other topographical information: We suggest you take a GPS-unit with you, or at least a good map like the 1:40 000 tourist map number 3 "A Bakony, déli rész" (Bakony, Southern part) from Cartografia, obtainable in every bookshop or tourist information in the region. Although the place is terribly easy to find when you know where it is, we got ourselves perfectly lost, complete with car, in the woods somewhere to the West of the hill (see below). No matter where you come from, you have to take highway number 8, which leads from Veszprém towards the West. Half way between Herend and Városlöd, three kilometres from either place, a very narrow and very easy to miss road leaves the highway in an acute angle towards the Southwest. Turn in here, and after just a short stretch (150 meters or so) a track branches off and leads towards the railroad tracks and a slight valley between two wooded hills with some houses. The left hand one of these hills is Tüzköves hegy. Cross the tracks and a small brook and leave your car here, near the gate of one of the houses. A narrow track goes slightly uphill, follow this until it leaves the woods again and from here go uphill until you find the abandoned excavation area. The track itself cuts into a knapping site and quite some material is already to be found at the foot of the hill.
Additional information: View across the excavation area
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2001
  If you want to see spectacular sights, don't go to Szentgá-Tüzköves hegy. The site is not much to look at, just the side and top of a hill with some slight indentations that hint at what is lying underneath. In the picture above you are looking across the main mining area.
Visitors information: The area is a bit low on infrastructure as most tourists stay somewhere at Lake Balaton. During our visit we stayed in a place near Veszprém, which we can't really recommend. Even here in the largest city of the area, there don't seem to be many places to stay.The town itself looks nice, but is quite unpleasant to drive through, because of an quite improbable proportion of one-way streets.
Sampling information: Tree tip with mining debris
Foto: Rengert Elburg, 2001
  This is an important archaeological site, so basically the place is out of bounds for sampling. It is not threatened by construction activity, mining, or the like, so the material is lying quite nicely where it has been lying for the last couple of thousand years. Having said this, you might wonder where the studio-quality fotos came from on this page, and how we did our experimental knapping. We'll confess, we did take some material from the site, mostly from the spoilheaps of the excavation, a few pieces from the tree-tip featuring above, and five additional flakes from the processing site, lying on the surface of the track at the foot of the hill. In all this amounts to a small 20 by 15 centimetres finds-bag half full for two visits to the place. Like on all sites, you can take a few pieces, if you do something useful with them, like building a reference collection, but do not take more then you strictly need. Do not knap on the site, as this might distort the picture of what has been done here, and do not take material for commercial purposes. The information on this page is given for scientific purposes only, not to encourage looting of an archaeological monument.
There is an enormous amount of mining debris lying on the surface, so there is no need to dig into the deposits. Always remember, there might be quite a lot of material around, but if every visitor hauls off big sacks, even the largest quantity of material is gone quite fast. As so little archaeological work has been done here, this site should be treated with the necessary respect.
For a full-blown picture of this sample, click here (99 KBytes). Flake of typical Szentgal radiolarite
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Typical block from Szentgal
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
For a full-blown version of this picture, click here (83 KBytes).
For a full-blown picture of this sample, click here (53 KBytes). Flake of brownish material
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Two-toned flake from Tuzkoveshegy
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
SomeDescription WhenNecessary
 
For a full-blown version of this picture, click here (82 KBytes).
Sample description: The pictures above give a good overview what the range of colours and textures can be expected in Szentgál radiolarite. The piece on the top left is most typical and which is the kind of stuff that can be expected as long-distance transported material. It is mostly red with whitish chalky spots, slightly banded and some black schliers/lines present. Part of the "porcellanite" parent stone/cortex is still attached and at the edge you see somewhat more brownish material.
To the right of it there is a typical 'sandwiched' block of not too good quality (heavily internally fractured) of the typical red colour but lacking the clear 'desilification'-spots, to give you an idea how the material naturally occurs. The flake below this one (bottom row, right) is another example of very typical material (by the way, the thumbnail on our Homepage is a piece of Szentgál-radiolarite from an archaeological context in Germany), but with more brownish colours present.
The piece left in the bottom row is a fairly common variety too. Instead of the more common 'desilicified' points there are spots of white material, probably uncoloured microcrystalline quartz. This piece is quite brownish, but the same type can have the more intense red colour. This material has a very wide distribution too, as we identified a flake of it on an Early Neolithic site in Dresden, Eastern Germany.


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Szentgál-West

Locality: Tüzköveshegy, Szentgál, Veszprém County, Central Transdanubia, Hungary
Synonyms: N/A
Geographical description: Although we can give you quite precise co-ordinates for the place where we found the stuff, we don't really knew where we were as we sampled it. As we took a wrong turn somewhere and, stubborn as we are, refused to turn around, we got ourselves very thoroughly lost somewhere in the woods on the southwestern side of the Tüzköveshegy. After pushing on a bit further on very narrow and slippery tracks in the woods with a normal car, turning around wasn't an option anymore and with some pushing and shoving and a lot of high-precision driving along quite steep edges, we got to a tarred road again. Somewhere underway we left the car and took a stroll in the surrounding woods, thereby nearly getting skewered by two of the famous Bakony stags and finding the material depicted below. Not very much to look at, but as we had such a hard time in getting it, we still include it here.
Geographical co-ordinates: Lat. 47 07" 52" N
Long. 017 41' 02" E
(Mapdatum WGS 84)

Co-ordinate precision: Due to the dense woods, the co-ordinates might be off by about 30 meters, but there is quite a lot of material around in the vicinity.
Other topographical information: As we can't really reconstruct how we did get here and how we got out again (the Hungarian 1:40 000 maps don't have a real grid-system), we can't give directions how to get there. We strongly recommend leaving your car somewhere, if it isn't a four-wheel driven jeep or the like, and go on foot if you really want to visit the place.
Sampling information: Like said above, we didn't really set out to sample the rest of the area around Tüzköveshegy, but took the sample during a stroll we took to find out where we might be. The stones were lying on the surface in the litter under the trees, and there seems to be quite a lot (mostly low-grade) radiolarite around.
For a full-blown picture of this sample, click here (70 KBytes). Flake of vivid red radiolarite
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Typical block from Szentgal
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 (80 KBytes). Strongly veined radiolarite
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
Typical block from Szentgal
Foto: Matthias Rummer, 2001
For a full-blown version of this picture, click here (71 KBytes).
Sample description: Most of this material shouldn't be included on this Website, as we're dealing with knappable materials, but we still include it as a curiosity. The top left piece is the brightest red we saw (until now) in any type of siliceous rock. Judging from its structure and cortex, it comes from more or less the same formation as the proper Szentá-radiolarite. To the right is a very pale, you could call it flesh-coloured flake, also a radiolarite or radiolaritic chert, which shows a quite good conchoidal fracture, at least better than most radiolarites we saw.
On the left in the bottom row is a piece of strongly veined, but internally badly fractured radiolarite. Next to it is something that looks like silicified wood, but this is probably a coincidence, as you can see that some of the small bands fuse or fork. Probably a very fine-layered structure in the parent rock caused the quartz to gather on the layer-interfaces, but if you know a better explanation, we would be glad to hear it.

 

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