Project Part 05: Survey on Prehistoric Rock Crystal Mining inthe Tux Alps 2009

 

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

Bergkristallgeräte 

 

An archaeological excavation carried out in August 2009 at a large quartz fissure on the Riepenkar (Municipality Finkenberg, Tyrol) south of the Olperer provided new finds. The find spot at an altitude of about 2.800 m above sea level is located at a prehistoric route running through Ziller Valley, Val di Vizze and Val di Valles (South Tyrol) which was used by hunters during the Mesolithic and Neolithic period.

According to rockhounds the fissure with a length of about 10 to 15 meters is one of the largest known quartz veins of the Hohe Tauern window and has apparently already been visited about 9.000 years ago by humans quarrying for rock crystal. Massive disturbances due to modern extraction of the treasured rock make the search for traces of prehistoric mining very difficult. Pieces of non-local rock account for it since they must have been brought there deliberately. These pieces might be fragments of hammer-stones used to quarry the rock crystal. Most of the crystals were probably carried to nearby camps for further usage. But in many cases the material was worked into tools on the spot. This is indicated by a number of flakes and tools with retouched surfaces and edges that can be dated to the Stone Age.

The methodical aim is to separate the modern crystal wastage from the one dating to the Stone Age. Therefore the material is first dry-sieved with clearly identifiable find pieces being extracted. The rest of the quartz debris is bagged and carried down into the valley by the hundredweight. In the workshop the material is washed and then examined to detect traces of processing. As a first overview shows  narrow blades were produced as well as wide flakes with cutting edges that are perfect to cut up the hunted game.

 

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