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6 November 2014
Small clue to Neolithic Cham flint traders

Weighing a few grammes and only 25 millimetres long, a tiny flint scraper discovered by an amateur archaeologist on the Schlogen loop of the Danube in Upper Austria tells a story of trade and society in Central Europe over 5,000 years ago, and helps piece together a long forgotten way of life.
     An ongoing study of flint artefacts imported into Upper Austria places the origins of this scraper 200 kilometres away, in the mines of Arnhofen in Lower Bavaria. Arnhofen is one of the largest sources of this quality Jurassic flint in Europe and was exploited for over 2,500 years. The flint was mined at a depth of up to 8 metres via more than 20,000 shafts, many of which can still be seen.
     Found on one of the broad flat terraces that form around the Danube loop, the scraper is of a type created by the Late Neolithic Cham culture (3400-2700 BCE), which stretched along the waterways of the Danube from Austria to Bavaria in southern Germany.
     Though most of their settlements are represented by only a few stray finds on later sites, they must have had a sophisticated network of trade and transportation. Up to 50 per cent of the tools from the Cham culture were made of flint imported from the Bavarian mines.
     It is easy to imagine flint traders in dugout canoes landing on this piece of land beside the broad river loop, where a tiny clue to their passage will be discovered thousands of years later.

Edited from Past Horizons (30 October 2014)

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