Project Part 05: Report on Prospection at the Riepenkar 2008

 

Head:

A.o. Univ.-Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner

Staff:

Thomas Bachnetzer Bakk. phil. 
Mag. phil. Beatrix Nutz
Julia Hammerschmied Bakk. phil.

University of Innsbruck
Institute of Archaeologies
Center for Ancient Cultures
Langer Weg 11
A-6020 Innsbruck

ProspektionRiepenkar2008 

 

Survey on the prehistoric rock crystal quarry at the Riepenkar in the Tuxer Alps

The region of the Tuxer and Zillertaler Alps (Tauernfenster), which is rich in quartz joints, has obviously already been prospected for rock crystal by the post-glacial hunters.  This has been verified within the scope of the current research of the Institute of Archaeology in August 2008. At the southern foothills of the Olperer in the range of the Riepenkar at the altitude of 2.700 m above sea-level, several big quartz joints can be found, which are not only the destination of modern rockhounds but were already of special interest between the 8th to 6th millennium B.C. The rock crystal deposit there is of exceptional quality and clarity as proved by mineralogical analysis. Besides the usual chert varieties this material provided an additional source for the production of stone tools for the prehistoric hunters in the high-Alpine terrain. Though the material may be pretty difficult to work the effort is obviously compensated by the optic qualities of the stone. Shape, transparency and sparkle make these crystals a sought-after material that played a significant role in the early countertrade across the Alps. Thereby probably the Riepenkar, regarding its geographical position, plays a key role between the Zillertal and the Pfitscher- respectively the Eisack Valley. In these valleys several Middle Stone Age sites with artefacts of rock crystal are known that suggest a north-south running transit route.

Amongst the finds of this year´s survey at the Riepenkar diverse flakes, blade fragments and pieces of detritus with traces of retouching and percussion negatives are recorded. Predominantly they are the product of on-site flaking attempts on the rock crystal. A stationary camp at this altitude is not to be expected. The site has rather been visited on purpose for provision of the treasured raw material. The actual tool manufacture took place at respective base camps.

Amidst the finds a piece of black chert must be noted. This material does not occur in situ and was therefore brought there by the hunters. From the slightly convex outline of the stone and pick-marks on the surface an oval hammer stone can be suggested that possibly served to quarry out the crystals.

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