Is the macroscopic classification of flint useful? A petroarchaeological analysis and characterization of flint raw materials from the Iberian Neolithic mine of Casa Montero

ArticleinArchaeometry 51(2):175 - 196 · March 2009with 356 Reads
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Abstract
Casa Montero is a mining complex located outside Madrid (Spain), dated from the Early Neolithic (c. 5400–5000 cal bc). An area of some 4 ha has been investigated and some 4000 shafts recorded, of which 324 have been excavated. The characterization of its raw flint materials and the establishment of its diagnostic features are indispensable in the reconstruction of the distribution of the mine's products beyond the immediate site. This work reports the geological study of the mine's Miocene flint layers and their petrological characterization. Archaeological samples from the mine's shafts were classified according to macroscopic features and petrological characteristics.

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    The relationship between solubility and surface area or particle size is sufficient to explain simple opal-A to opal-CT to quartz transformations. Complexation and adsorption in an impure system, when added to the model, allow for possibilities of opal-A transformation directly to quartz, of clay and zeolite formation from an opaline silica source, and of variations in silica transformation rates due to presence of impurities in the system.-from Authors
  • Aplicación de técnicas analíticas para el estudio de las materias primas líticas prehistóricas
    • X Terradas
    • F Plana
    • J S And Chinchón
    Terradas, X., Plana, F., and Chinchón, J. S., 1991, Aplicación de técnicas analíticas para el estudio de las materias primas líticas prehistóricas, in Arqueología (ed. A. Vila), 141-67, Colección Nuevas Tendencias, CSIC, Madrid.
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    The research during the construction of the M-50 highway has allowed the documentation and conservation of the first Neolithic flint mine in the Iberian Peninsula. This work presents the preliminary results of the first phase of archaeological excavations. Thus far, the site plan documented shows a group of more than 2.500 extraction pits. Presented here are a description of the pits, their types and distribution, as well as the abundant archaeological materials found inside them. The characteristcs of the features and their backfilling processes indicate the existence of precise working strategies that may ompel a revision of our understanding of the Neolithic in the Madrid region. Moreover, three other phases have also been recorded in the site: Pleistocene, Middle Bronze Age and Contemporary.La construcción de la autovía M-50 ha permitido documentar y conservar la primera explotación de sílex neolítica de la Península Ibérica. Este trabajo presenta los resultados iniciales de la primera fase de excavación arqueológica. La planta del yacimiento documentada hasta el momento muestra un conjunto de más de 2.500 pozos de extracción. Se describen los pozos, sus tipos y distribución así como el abundante material arqueológico recuperado en su interior. Las características de las estructuras, y de su amortización, indican la existencia de estrategias de explotación precisas que pueden obligar a replantear el panorama del Neolítico madrileño. En el mismo yacimiento se han documentado además otras tres fases: pleistocena, Bronce medio y contemporánea/ actual.
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    El reciente descubrimiento y excavación de la mina de sílex de Casa Montero (Madrid) ha confirmado la importancia que este recurso mineral ha tenido desde el Pleistoceno hasta nuestros días en la región. Peer reviewed
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    Structural characterization reveals that moganite represents a new AB2 structure type which is closely related to quartz. Moganite typically contains up to 3 wt% of water which is not a constituent of the structure. Rietveld refinement of the X-ray diffraction data leads to profile R-values R=3.5%, Rw=4.5%, GOF=8.0. Moganite is essentially monoclinic with a=8.758(2), b=4.876(1), c=10.715(2) Å, β=90.08(3)°, space group I 1 2/a 1, Z(SiO2)=12, D=2.55 g cm-3. The crystallites fequently display a triclinic superstructure which doubles the volume of the unit cell. The crystal structure can be thought of as consisting of alternating layers - resembling (101̄1)-slices through right- and left-handed quartz - which form a three dimensional framework of corner-sharing SiO4-tetrahedra. The structural principle is thus a periodic twinning according to the Brazil-law on a cell dimension scale. The topology of the quartz structure is transformed to the moganite topology if 1/6 of the Si-atoms occupies I4-positions of quartz. Besides the 6- and 8-rings, the structure contains 4-rings of SiO4-tetrahedra. -from Authors
  • Article
    Natural hydrous silicas may be subdivided into three well‐defined structural groups—opal‐C (well‐ordered α‐cristobalite), opal‐CT (disordered a‐cristobalite, a‐tridymite) and opal‐A (highly disordered, near amorphous). Lussatite from the original locality is identical with opal‐CT and thus appears to be a legitimate term for this class of opal. Although the prime criterion used is the nature of the X‐ray diffraction pattern, supplementary information from infra‐red absorption, dilatometer and thermal techniques supports the three‐fold classification.
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    Although lutecite, or length-slow silica, frequently is used as an indicator for evaporites, its occasional presence in non-evaporitic regimes has shed suspicion on its reliability. This study provides evidence that lutecite actually is a newly recognized mineral called moganite. Powder X-ray diffraction studies reveal that moganite is abundant in but not restricted to cherts that formed in evaporitic environments. Quantitative analysis using Rietveld refinement methods indicates that non-evaporitic silica typically contains between 5 and 15 wt % moganite, whereas evaporitic specimens may contain between 20 and 75 wt % moganite. No chert from non-evaporitic settings has been found to contain more than 25 wt % moganite. Consequently, enhanced moganite concentrations (> 20 wt %) in microcrystalline silica may prove a valuable indicator for vanished evaporites. The frequent association of moganite with "Magadi-type" chert suggests that moganite is a diagenetic alteration product of the hydrous Na-silicate magadiite. The transformation of magadiite to moganite occurs over hundreds to thousands of years, whereas the inversion of metastable moganite to quartz often requires tens of millions of years.
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    Recent advances in instrumental technology are providing archaeologists with enticing opportunities in the chemical analysis of geological materials. These advances, however, have not necessarily been employed with a great degree of communication between the archaeologists who study stone tools and structural stone, and the archaeometrists who analyse those materials. While communication has improved greatly in the last several years, progress can still be realized. Recent archaeometric attempts to unravel issues in stone-tool use, continuing work in the understanding of the chemical variability and secondary depositional effects in archaeological sources of obsidian and chert, and discussions of the best methods to quantify results all dominate the interface between lithic technology and archaeometric attempts to solve these problems. These issues will be with us well into the next century and deserve some discussion here and now.
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    All flints containing unstable impurities are susceptible to patination. The rate of patination varies with many factors: (i) the texture and microstructure of the flint; (ii) its permeability; (iii) the kind, proportion and distribution of impurities; and (iv) environmental factors, such as temperature and soil chemistry. The thickness of the patina varies also with time. Two contrasting types of patina can develop: a chalky white patina and a ferruginous brown patina. Both types are observable primarily as a color change, and study of these types is facilitated by a clear understanding of the causes of color in flint. The color of most flints is the result of repeated refraction and reflection of light at numerous intergranular surfaces, whereby part of the light is internally absorbed and part is reflected back to the observer. The ratio of reflected to absorbed light governs the lightness of the color, or its value. The preferential absorption of certain wavelengths by natural pigments (such as iron oxide and hydrous iron oxide) disseminated through the flint determine the hue of the color. The color changes produced during patination relate to changes in texture and impurity content occasioned by the attack of weathering agents on impurities in the flint. The creation of voids by the dissolution and leaching of carbonates, the loosening of quartz crystallites, and the dispersal of clays all modify the reflectivity of the flint. Chemical changes involving the epigments, their dispersal along intergranular surfaces, or removal by leachig modify both reflectivity and capacity to preferentially absorb. Attempts to correlate patina thickness with age, and thus to use flint patinae chronometrically, have proven unsatisfactory because other factors, whose importance in some cases exceeds that of age, have not been taken into account. The texture and microstructure of flint, its permeability, and the kind, proportion, and distribution of impurities can be evaluated by regular petrographic techniques. Environmental factors can be assumed constant for artifacts from the same types of soil in a given climatic region. Only after allowances have been made for these additional variables does the age-dependence of flint patination become clear.
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    Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry with laser sampling (LA-ICP-MS) was applied in the chemical characterization of flint artifacts of different geologic and geographic provenance in order to examine the mode and extent of chemical variability inside the pieces, and to find out any key parameters for provenance studies. The chemical variability of flint within the tools was found to be high due to sedimentary and diagenetic processes. However, this variability was low if compared to the variability existing between different geologic formations, and between different stratigraphic levels and outcrops of the same formation. Therefore, despite the chemical variability which requires a representative number of micro-samplings to be performed, LA-ICP-MS may provide a great deal of geochemical information in the field of flint provenance studies.
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    Abundant sand-sized mud aggregates in the Cooper and Diamantina Rivers, Lake Eyre Basin, Australia are attributed to bedload transport of aggregates formed in deeply-cracked floodplain soils. The conditions required for formation of pedogenic mud aggregates are: (i) abundant clay containing at least minor swelling clay, and (ii) a climate with at least seasonally hot dry periods. The worldwide distribution of these soils (Vertisols) suggests that a significant amount of mud is transported as pedogenic aggregates by modern rivers. Ancient analogues in which mud aggregates and Vertisol profiles have been recognized are the Jurassic East Berlin Formation (Connecticut, USA) and the Carboniferous Maringouin Formation (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada). The dominant red mudstones of these formations are interpreted as mainly bedload sediments deposited by sheet floods in semi-arid palaeoclimates. The Triassic Hawkesbury Sandstone (NSW, Australia) also contains sand-sized mudstone aggregates, thought to be pedogenic, but its paleosol and other facies point to formation in a wetter palaeoclimate. The indications are that bedload transport of mud as pedogenic aggregates was as significant a process in ancient rivers as it is at present.
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    Silicification of originally non-siliceous sediments affects a wide variety of rock-types and materials and ranges from minor to pervasive. Partial and minor chertification occur mostly in Phanerozoic carbonates, carbonate-bearing sandstones, evaporites, and fossil wood. The source of the silica is predominantly biogenic. In petrified wood the silicification mechanism is a permeation or void-filling process, not a replacement. In this example, the sequence of silica-phase transformation is the same as that in deep-sea siliceous sediments.
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    Chert and chalcedony are composed of source specific weight percents of quartz and a silica polymorph called moganite. In this study, optical mineralogical techniques in polarized light and X-ray diffraction with Rietveld refinement are used to observe moganite and determine its weight percent in a series of samples from southern New England archaeological sites and museum collections. This study shows that while optical techniques show some promise, X-ray diffraction and Rietveld refinement are most accurate for determining moganite ratios in archaeological materials. In combination, these three techniques are also useful for identifying other minerals present that can aid in lithic sourcing. Future work may continue to improve the effectiveness of silica polymorph analysis for lithic sourcing. However, routine use of X-ray diffraction and optical mineralogy should be immediately adopted by archaeologists to ensure more accurate identification and description of chert and chalcedony raw materials.
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    The research during the construction of the M-50 highway has allowed the documentation and conservation of the first Neolithic flint mine in the Iberian Peninsula. This work presents the preliminary results of the first phase of archaeological excavations. Thus far, the site plan documented shows a group of more than 2.500 extraction pits. Presented here are a description of the pits, their types and distribution, as well as the abundant archaeological materials found inside them. The characteristcs of the features and their backfilling processes indicate the existence of precise working strategies that may ompel a revision of our understanding of the Neolithic in the Madrid region. Moreover, three other phases have also been recorded in the site: Pleistocene, Middle Bronze Age and Contemporary. La construcción de la autovía M-50 ha permitido documentar y conservar la primera explotación de sílex neolítica de la Península Ibérica. Este trabajo presenta los resultados iniciales de la primera fase de excavación arqueológica. La planta del yacimiento documentada hasta el momento muestra un conjunto de más de 2.500 pozos de extracción. Se describen los pozos, sus tipos y distribución así como el abundante material arqueológico recuperado en su interior. Las características de las estructuras, y de su amortización, indican la existencia de estrategias de explotación precisas que pueden obligar a replantear el panorama del Neolítico madrileño. En el mismo yacimiento se han documentado además otras tres fases: pleistocena, Bronce medio y contemporánea/ actual.
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    Fitzpatrick first published a text book on soils in 1971, and it has been completely rewritten for this new edition. The problem of the many classifications of soils used in the world has led the author to use three sets of terminlogy simultaneously, although the first 4 chapters are presented without the need to resort to such jargon. As far as classification is concerned the large number of systems are described while chapter 6 dicusses the soil classes of the world in alphabetical order using the FAO nomenclature - this consists of about one third of the book. -Keith Clayton
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    No This paper introduces a method to study the degree of change that affected a prehistoric context as the result of environmental processes. It is based on the direct examination of a representative sample of stone tool by-products, and on the identification of all surface alteration features. We summarize the theoretical bases for the formation of some wear features and the main results of a number of experiments involving interaction between chert flakes and sediments. Experimental results include: (1) the wear rate of flakes is not constant; (2) the wear rate increases as the size of the grains that compose the matrix increases; (3) fine grained chert resists wear better then coarse grained chert; and (4) the presence of moisture will trigger some chemical reactions that promote wear and the formation of films on chert surfaces. We apply these findings to the cave site of Grotta di Pozzo, Italy, and conclude that, strictly within the area sampled, there is low degree of disturbance and low intensity of chemical processes that may, however, confound the reconstruction of human activities in this part of the cave.
  • Article
    All flints containing unstable impurities are susceptible to patination. The rate of patination varies with many factors: (i) the texture and microstructure of the flint; (ii) its permeability; (iii) the kind, proportion and distribution of impurities; and (iv) environmental factors, such as temperature and soil chemistry. The thickness of the patina varies also with time. Two contrasting types of patina can develop: a chalky white patina and a ferruginous brown patina. Both types are observable primarily as a color change, and study of these types is facilitated by a clear understanding of the causes of color in flint. The color of most flints is the result of repeated refraction and reflection of light at numerous intergranular surfaces, whereby part of the light is internally absorbed and part is reflected back to the observer. The ratio of reflected to absorbed light governs the lightness of the color, or its value. The preferential absorption of certain wavelengths by natural pigments (such as iron oxide and hydrous iron oxide) disseminated through the flint determine the hue of the color. The color changes produced during patination relate to changes in texture and impurity content occasioned by the attack of weathering agents on impurities in the flint. The creation of voids by the dissolution and leaching of carbonates, the loosening of quartz crystallites, and the dispersal of clays all modify the reflectivity of the flint. Chemical changes involving the epigments, their dispersal along intergranular surfaces, or removal by leachig modify both reflectivity and capacity to preferentially absorb. Attempts to correlate patina thickness with age, and thus to use flint patinae chronometrically, have proven unsatisfactory because other factors, whose importance in some cases exceeds that of age, have not been taken into account. The texture and microstructure of flint, its permeability, and the kind, proportion, and distribution of impurities can be evaluated by regular petrographic techniques. Environmental factors can be assumed constant for artifacts from the same types of soil in a given climatic region. Only after allowances have been made for these additional variables does the age-dependence of flint patination become clear.