Making sense of “Banat flint”. A re-evaluation of the raw materials at the early Upper Palaeolithic open-air sites of the Banat (SW-Romania)
The early Upper Palaeolithic raw material records of the Banat are dominated by a rock often referred to as “Banat flint” – what’s in a name. In addition, a small number of other raw material varieties, such as chalcedony, jasper, flint and radiolarite were also believed to constitute the raw material record. However, to enlarge our understanding of the raw materials, I consulted the “Lithotheque” database of knappable raw materials in Romania, directed by Dr. Otis Crandell of the Babeş-Bolyai University (UBB at Cluj-Napoca, Romania).
The record of raw materials is largely dominated by a solidified silica gel that relates to volcanism and hydrothermal activity. A great deal of the observed variability amongst the lithic artefacts, which was originally perceived to indicate different raw materials, actually relates to the time and settings of sedimentation. Unfortunately, questions remain concerning the distant raw materials, among which is a blackish flint variety. Chemical analysis of the alleged distant raw materials will hopefully provide closure on whether or not the early modern humans of the Banat went out of their way, physically or socially, to get their stones.
From the “Lithotheque” of the UBB: A solidified silica gel specimen from Fintoag in the West Metaliferi Mountains, which relates to volcanic and hydrothermal activity of Interior Segment Magmatism during Miocene times (15–8 Ma).
Photo: Ine Léonard