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Large Stone Quarries

In the 1930’s green slate – metabasite – was already considered in the Czech Republic and its wider area as being the principal raw material in the Neolithic period that was needed for the production of polished stone tools, as well as its resources around Jablonec nad Nisou were known. This raw material, however, had mistakenly been identified as jade and this is perhaps why this idea later became redundant. The re-establishment of this concept did not come about until more than half a century had elapsed and this led directly to the clarification of the exact origin of the raw material that was needed for producing the essential components of the material culture for the first farmers, i.e. stone axes.

The documents regarding the Neolithic quarrying that took place in Pojizeří are not easy to find.
The documents regarding the Neolithic quarrying that took place in Pojizeří are not easy to find. Pictured here are beaters (1-3) and also the blanks (4-5) that were found at the Velké Hamry site in 2014. Illustration by Martin Černý.

The right direction in regard to the search for the origin of the requisite raw material was also hinted at because of the large-scale discoveries of polished stone tools that were especially abundant in north-eastern Bohemia. The final breakthrough discovery occurred in 2002. It was achieved independently by two different teams of researchers – the first was led by Vladimír Šrein and the second by Antonín Přichystal. In fact the mining fields located in the valley of the Kamenice River in Velké Hamry and in the foothills of the Černá Studnice Mountain in Jistebsko were both found at the same time. Thereby more than a hundred years of effort culminated in tracking-down the actual sources of the material based on which the Neolithic polished stone industry came into being. Although the first sites that were discovered were those that were located in the cadastral area of Jistebsko close to Dolní Černá Studnice and also at the Velké Hamry I site, while based on intensive research it is known that currently there are more of them to be found in the monitored area.

The extraction of raw materials used to take place in broad shallow pits and the blanks were usually made directly on the spot. Traces of the preparation and the further processing of the blanks can be found at virtually every larger-sized Neolithic settlement, both in the form of stone cores and of small flakes of the raw material. The manufacturing process has also been documented by sandstone grinders.

Within the archaeological environment the current name for this raw material became stabilised in the phrase “metabasite of the Jizerské hory type”, especially because of the complicated format of the actual geological term which is: a group of hornblende-actinolite-plagioclase (bytownite-labradorite) contact chert. The distribution network for the metabasite of the Jizerské hory type extends to hundreds of kilometres from the defined source. The use of this specific raw material had been documented all along the Elbe River that runs through Saxony to the foothills of the Harz Mountains that are located in Central Germany and also in Thuringia, North Bavaria and Hessen, while, in the opposite direction, also in Northwest and Central Hungary and, very probably, also the findings from southern Poland can also be taken into account. In Central Europe it is the most common raw material, although even here it is not the only material that was used in the production of polished stone tools.


Want to learn more?

  • Přichystal, A. 2009. Kamenné suroviny v pravěku východní části střední Evropy. Brno: Masarykova univerzita.
  • Šída, P. 2014. O počátcích výroby neolitické kamenné broušené industrie. Archeologie západních Čech 7: 26–33.