"Versandhandel" in the Stone Age

Mineralogists identify the origin of Stone Age tools

Basaltic lava USGS
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In the Neolithic, amphibolites were an important type of stone used to make stone axes. The archeology has always assumed that the rock came locally from each of the nearest deposits. However, systematic mineralogical investigations of stone axes from various excavations throughout Germany have shown that a rare amphibole type from the Giant Mountains has been used as the raw material over and over again. This proves that already almost 7, 000 years ago an extensive trading network must have existed in Europe.

Stone axes were in the so-called Neolithic between 5, 000 and 2, 000 years before Christ, the most important tools: With them fell trees, wars or dug holes. The material used for the hatchets was usually a hard-wearing rock such as granite, basalt, amphibolite or chlorite-slate. Characteristic of the Neolithic was the skillful grinding of raw materials and thus no longer just the simple hewing of the tools as in the Paleolithic.

Mineralogical fingerprint

Extensive geochemical analyzes have now found scientists from the Institute of Mineralogy and Crystal Structure of the University of Würzburg and the Institute of Prehistoric and Early History of the University of Tübingen that strikingly often the same amphibolite containing both actinolite and hornblende was used for the production of stone axes, This mixed rock possesses a very specific mineralogical "fingerprint", which led the researchers to its region of origin, Jistebsko, in the Czech Krkonoše Mountains. Since the stone axes were found in the entire area of ​​today's Germany, then either the rock, the blanks or the finished hatchets must have been transported over greater distances.

This surprising result shows that already in the Neolithic there must have been an extensive trade network in Central Europe. For hundreds of kilometers, the stone axes probably came from settlement to settlement via long-distance trade routes to their current localities. In fact, Czech scientists in the Krkonose Mountains found old quarries including mining remains of amphibolites. Further evidence of the early human "mail order" of tools.

Amphibolite - children of basalt

The exact geochemical determination of the stone axes was achieved by Uli Schuessler and Anne-Mette Christensen using X-ray fluorescence analysis, laser ablation ICP mass spectrometry and conventional mass spectrometry. Here, the proportions of the main, trace and rare earth elements and the ratios of the strontium and lead isotopes are measured. Through these values, the different types of amphibolites can be distinguished relatively well. For example, Schuessler and Christensen were able to exclude for most excavations that local amphibolite deposits were used for the stone axes. display


The greenish to gray amphibolite belongs to the so-called metamorphites, which are also called transformation rocks. Originally, basalt amphibolites were created, which reached the surface of the earth in volcanic eruptions in the form of lava and cooled there. In the course of Earth's history, however, this magmatic rock was re-transported to the Earth's interior and crystallized there due to the high pressure and the hot temperatures. This gave the amphibolites their characteristic mineralogical composition with a mixture of different minerals such as hornblende, plagioclase, quartz, biotite or various ore minerals. Normally amphibolites from different geological sources are difficult to differentiate. However, as a very striking, rare type of amphibole was used for the production of the stone axes, a determination of origin was a good one, fortunately for archeology.

(GeoUnion, Uli Sch ler / University W rzburg, 02.12.2005 - AHE)