Weighing in at a few grammes, and measuring only 25mm long, a tiny scraper discovered by an amateur archaeologist on the Schlögen loop of the River Danube, 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.
Mines of Arnhofen
An ongoing study of imported Bavarian flint artefacts into Upper Austria, places the origins of this unprepossessing scraper, 200km away from its find- spot, to 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 collected at a depth of up to 8 metres via more than 20,000 shafts, many of which can still be seen today (see image below).
Late Neolithic Cham culture
The scraper was found on one of the broad flat terraces that form around the Danube loop, and is of a type created by the Late Neolithic Cham culture (3400-2700 BCE). This culture stretched along the waterways of the Danube from Austria to Bavaria in southern Germany.
They are however an elusive group, with most of their settlements being represented by only a few stray finds on later sites. Undoubtedly though, they must have had a sophisticated network of trade and transportation judging from the distance that their flint travelled, and this may have relied upon the rivers and tributaries of the Danube to move across a large area that would otherwise be difficult to traverse, given the deep valleys and mountains blocking overland travel.
A flint route
Although, researchers have long believed that the waterway route would make most sense for long distance travel, a distinct lack of direct artefactual evidence meant that this had remained only a theory. However, as up to 50 per cent of the tools from the Cham culture were made from flint imported from the Bavarian mines, a “flint route” via the Danube would be the most likely option. Therefore, this small scraper lying at the edge of the Danube brings just a little bit more perspective to the theory.
Although only a small part of the larger picture, it is entirely possible to imagine flint traders coming from Bavaria in dugout canoes and travelling along the Danube “superhighway” then landing on this piece of land beside the broad river loop, leaving behind a tiny clue to be discovered thousands of years later.
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