GEOLOGICA CARPATHICA, 52, 5, BRATISLAVA, OCTOBER 2001
319 — 324
RAW MATERIALS OF NEOLITHIC/AENEOLITHIC STONE BASES
AND CRUSHERS FROM THE NITRIANSKY HRÁDOK SITE
and UDMILA ILLÁŠOVÁ
Faculty of Science, Comenius University, Mlynská dolina, 842 15 Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Akademická 2, 949 21 Nitra, Slovak Republic
(Manuscript received October 12, 2000; accepted in revised form March 15, 2001)
Abstract: The polycultural site of Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček, 35 km SE of the town Nitra, is characterized by its rich
collection (several hundreds!) of stone bases and crushers. They are made mostly of metaconglomerates, in less amount
also of andesites, basalts, granodiorites, metaquartzites and sandstones. The provenances of the raw materials are Tribeč
Mts (metaquartzites, metaconglomerates, granodiorites), Late Tertiary volcanic mountain ranges of Pohronský Inovec
Mts, Štiavnické vrchy and Kremnické vrchy (andesites and basalts) as well as the Neogene sediments (sandstones) of
Key words: Neolithic/Aeneolithic, Slovakia, stone bases and crushers, raw material.
The authors of this paper in the framework of the national as
well as international IGCP/UNESCO Project No. 442 during
the last years have concentrated on the problems of “small”
tools or implements of daily use. In this paper we deal with the
raw materials of stone bases and crushers from the above men-
The raw material studies of Neolithic/Aeneolithic imple-
ments realized on the archaeological site of Nitriansky Hrá-
dok-Zámeček (western Slovakia, Fig. 1) during the most re-
cent years have brought new aspects into the given problem.
Using standard modern petrographical laboratory methods, the
information on the stone raw materials used by the Neolithic/
Aeneolithic populations have been significantly enlarged.
Among the raw materials those of very local, distant, and very
distant sources were described as well.
The Neolithic revolution (agriculture and domestic animals
treatment as the main activities for food supply) brought sever-
al necessities in daily activities. A need of higher amount of
stone raw materials on one side, and the trend towards use of
stone bases spread all over the country – but till now no pet-
rographical studies of their raw material have been done. As
stone bases have been found on several archaeological sites,
their mutual comparison and determination of the rock types
used seems to be supplementary information to the material
culture of the Neolithic/Aeneolithic populations living on the
southern slopes of the Carpathian mountains and basins
among individual mountain ridges.
The archaeological site of Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček is of
polycultural character. The oldest population was that of the
Lengyel culture (Pavúk & Šiška 1971). The site was settled in
the Aeneolithic as well as in the Early Bronze Age (the
Ma arovce culture). Finds from the Hallstatt period were also
discovered on the site together with those from the Late La
Téne, Roman, Migration periods and the Middle Ages (Točík
1981). The place is situated on the alluvial elevation of the riv-
er Nitra and Cítenka brook. The underlying strata are formed
by loess, flood and wash sediments. Rich finds of stone indus-
try help to create the picture of daily activity of people living
in individual historical periods. Stone tools and implements
for land cultivation (thoes), wood treatment (axe-hammers,
adzes), grain grinding, etc. are characteristic. They were made
by various manufacturing techniques and of various raw mate-
rials (Illášová & Hovorka 1999).
Stone bases and crushers studied in thin sections from a
large set of finds of Neolithic/Aeneolithic stone implements
are summed up in Table 1.
Stone bases and crushers from the Nitriansky Hrádok site
belong to two cultures:
i) the Lengyel culture, and
ii) the Baden culture (Middle Aeneolithic)
From the review presented in Table 1 it follows that
a) people of both cultures used the same raw material types
for stone bases and crushers,
b) the quantitative proportions of the raw materials used are
also very close each to other, which allows us to suppose
c) gradual development of the younger (i.e. Baden) culture
from the older one at the discussed place.
Fig. 1. Location of the Nitriansky Hrádok site.
The following features were studied on them: i) main mor-
phological characteristics: outer shape, shape of working plat-
form and traces of working activities, i) metric data – mea-
surements and weight, i) other visible traces – e.g. traces of
fire, i) raw material and its qualities or pertinency of its usage,
i) function of bases.
According to the observed outer signs the stone bases were
divided into two typological groups: a group of oval bases, the
working platform of which was eliptical and the base of oval
shape; in the other group bases were of flat square shapes. Ac-
cording to the raw material, e.g. inner structure of the rock,
types and kinds of raw materials used, were determined. The
techniques used were rough-hewing, flaking-off, chipping and
in final phase also polishing, aimed in perfect ovalness mainly
of basal side of bases. Petrographical characterization of rocks
resulted from microscopic analysis.
The set included also two semi-products (Fig. 2A,B). They
are unfinished or not yet used bases. Their shape is oval, but
reached only by rough-hewing.
Shape of the working platform
The stone bases are of oval (loaf) shape. Basal part was
round. According to working activities, preserved working
platforms of the bases were flat, dented or slightly embossed.
Traces of working activities
On working platforms of the bases traces of working activi-
ties in different directions were observable – in a longitudinal
or in latitudinal direction (Table 1). In the longitudinal direc-
tion the working platform is often slightly dented or flat –
traces are visible along the whole length from one edge to the
other or they are concentrated in central part of bases. The
working place is remarkably dented. In latitudinal direction
the working platform in slightly embossed or flat traces are ob-
servable from one edge to the other. Traces of working activi-
ties oriented in various directions – multilateral traces, that is
in longitudinal as well as latitudinal directions, equally on the
entire base. In this case the working platform is dented, or flat
According to their metrical data (length : width : thickness),
the bases were divided into 4 groups (Illášová & Hovorka
i) small bases with the average size of 200
weight ca. 2 kg;
i) medium-size bases of 270
52 mm, weight 2—3 kg;
i) big bases of 340
90 mm, weight ca. 4 kg;
i) very big bases – working tables, stakes with weight over
Traces of fire
On 2 Neolithic bases traces of fire were observed.
Fig. 2. A—B – Semiproducts of stone bases made from limestone,
C – stone base with work traces in horizontal direction, D—E –
stone bases with traces of working activities concentrated in cen-
tral parts, F – stone base with traces of working activities in all
directions. Size 1:3.
Table 1: Microscopically determined raw material types.
Stone bases Crushers
Stone bases Crushers
RAW MATERIALS OF NEOLITHIC/AENEOLITHIC STONE BASES 321
Function of bases
Analysing all observed signs on stone bases we will try to
interpret their function. Up to now, oval stones, very often with
oval working platform, frequently named loaf-shaped, were re-
garded as stone bases, without any further identification of
working activity. The character of traces on the working sur-
face depends not only on function but also on the raw material
from which a base was made. In general, we can say, that re-
markable traces on working platform caused by crushing or
grinding are visible on bases of volcanic rocks, such as andes-
ite, but also on metaconglomerate, metaquartzite, mylonite.
Less remarkable traces are observable on bases made of gran-
ite/granodiorite, those made of sandstones of different granu-
larity are classified as whetstones.
i) Bases with slightly dented working platform and with
traces of working activities concentrated in the central part
could serve for grain-crushing or for treatment (homogeniza-
tion) of loam (Fig. 2D,E).
i) Bases with flat working platform and with traces of work-
ing activities in various directions could serve for various ac-
tivities – sharpening, whetting, polishing of stone, of metal or
bone artefacts, probably of smaller size than was the working
platform (Fig. 2F).
i) Bases with flat working platform and with traces of work-
ing activities in a longitudinal direction could serve for sharp-
ening of metal, bone or stone tools by grinding along the whole
surface. The working surface was by thus equally whetted
away. Treated artefacts were of the same size or bigger than the
working surface (Fig. 2C).
On the Neolithic/Aeneolithic stone bases no traces of work-
ing activities have been found in direction of their shorter di-
mension. Such working traces from this site are documented
from the Early Bronze Age (Illášová 2000). Neolithic/Ae-
neolithic stone bases from Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček site
belong to the category of small bases. Two documented pieces
are exceptions. One of them (Aeneolithic) belongs to category
of big stone bases, while the other is a working table.
The set of crushers included 13 pieces (Table 1, Fig. 3). The
crushers belong to the stone bases with the presupposed func-
tion of grain-crushing. They are river pebbles with evident
traces of working activity – macrodeformations mainly along
From the typological point of view the crushers are present-
ed as: – river pebbles often of homogenous petrographic type
– flat rounded or egg-shaped with weight from 400 to 600 g
and size of approx. 60
40 mm. Raw materials of crushers
are mainly metaquartzites, limestones, basalts and andesites.
Raw materials and their provenance
On the basis of the fact that bases and crushers, in compari-
son to those instruments (and weapons) of daily use, are larger
and heavier, raw materials used for their construction were of
more-or-less local origin only. This aspect fundamentally in-
fluenced type of local raw materials used in the given time-
Common features which mainly influence the technical
properties of given raw materials are their compactness and
the presence in their composition of harder constituents. In
common rock-types such a constituent is represented by
quartz crystals. An optimal feature (abrasive effect) occurs in
cases when quartz or other hard crystals (in the given rock-
type) have a phyric habit. In such case hard crystals dominat-
ing by their size over other rock constituents are placed in a
fine-grained (or even glassy) rock-matrix. In this case abrasive
effect of the given stone base or crusher is optimal.
We have documented the following raw material types used
for stone bases and crushers make.
The characteristic feature of basalts is their phyric fabric.
Alkaline basalts contain phyric olivines and both, ortho- and
clinopyroxenes, but calk-alkaline basalts include little or no
olivine, while plagioclase is present as a phyric phase. The
groundmass in both cases is fine-grained, or in some places
even glassy. It is composed of plagioclase laths, short-colum-
nar pyroxenes and euhedral olivines of the IInd generation.
Ore phases (mostly in the form of equidimensional small crys-
tals) are also present.
Basalts (both mentioned subtypes) on natural cleavage
planes are smooth, or slightly rough.
After some use, the surface become more rougher and the
abrasive effect is stronger. Among the basalt stone bases a
fine-porous type has also been found. In this case the abra-
sive effect is based on the presence of small (less than 2 mm)
The basalts are among the geologically youngest volcanic
rock in the whole of Central Europe. Their weathering resist-
ence is high, and fresh rock appearance is also detectable after
water (river) transport.
Basalts belong to one of the main rock-types in the province
of the Central Slovakia Late Tertiary volcanic area. From the
petrological and especially the genetical point of view they
belong to two distinct clans: a) calc-alkaline basalts (basaltic
andesites) and, b) alkaline basalts. They are concentrated as
lava flows and agglomerate lavas in the broader vicinity of the
Žiarska kotlina Depression. Blocks up to 15 cm in diameter
can be found in the river Hron valley bed deposits.
This, the most common volcanic rock in the province of the
Central Slovakia Late Tertiary volcanic mountains, occurs in
plenty of varieties. They are classified on the basis of their
variable mineral composition, grain-size, textural patterns etc.
Also in the case of andesites used as the raw material for base
and crusher construction their phyric structure is the leading
aspect of their high abrasivity. Apart from the general charac-
teristics mentioned above, small plagioclase laths oriented in
one direction in their groundmass and forming a fluidal pat-
tern, are characteristic of some varieties of andesite (Fig. 4).
Smaller stone bases and crushers are most probably made
from blocks (bigger pebbles) transported by the river Hron,
while larger ones are made from blocks of andesites mainly
from their natural occurrences in the Vtáčnik and Pohronský
Inovec Mts. In the last mentioned case andesite blocks (or
most probably ready made bases and crushers) have been
transported from “one-day’s-walk-distance”.
Granodiorites/tonalites are the most wide spread plutonic
rock type in the Slovak Western Carpathians. They built up the
central part of the Tribeč Mts, which are situated approximate-
ly 25—30 km to the N or NNE of the Nitriansky Hrádok-
Granodiorite/tonalite (the difference between those types
are insignificant from the point of view of the topics discussed
in this paper) are even-grained, in less amount also porphyritic
rock types composed of quartz, feldspars and micas (dark as
well as light ones). As a result of their hardness quartz crystals
are dominant and for the abrasive effects the most significant.
As the great majority of granodiorite/tonalite massifs in the
Western Carpathians of the Slovak territory are of Variscan
(Carboniferous) age, consequent Alpine tectonic-metamorphi-
cal processes caused secondary recrystallization especially of
feldspars of granitoid rocks (term used for granites/granodior-
ites/tonalites in the broad sense). This recrystallization caused
softening of this mineral, so the difference in hardness be-
tween quartz and feldspars (as the main constituents of grano-
diorites/tonalites) was increased.
We have documented 5 bases and 4 semi-products made
from granodiorites/tonalites of above character. The prove-
nance of the raw material type is the Tribeč Mts, especially its
southernmost part, which forms an elevated horst-like block
supplying adequate rock-blocks.
Our raw material studies of Neolithic/Aeneolithic industry
already allow us to make the following statement: limestones
as raw materials for implements with practical uses have been
utilized only very sporadically. But they have been used as the
Fig. 3. Crushers. The crusher belongs to the stone bases with pre-
supposed function of grain-crushing. They are river pebbles with
clear traces of working activity. A – andesite, size 64
B – metaquartzite, size 52
42 mm, C – basalt, size
56 mm, D – metaquartzite, 51
62 mm, E – meta-
quartzite, size 37
Fig. 4. Porphyritic fabric of two pyroxene andesite with nonpro-
nouncedly fluidal matrix. Nitriansky Hrádok, magn. 27
, X polars.
RAW MATERIALS OF NEOLITHIC/AENEOLITHIC STONE BASES 323
raw materials of various implements of ornamental or symbol-
ic nature, such as the tag, the decoration etc. Also in this case
the exception proves the rule.
One crusher is made from a limestone. It is dark-grey/black
in colour and traces of macrodeformations are expressed by
light hair-like calcite veinlets. On the basis of its appearance
we consider the limestone to be of the Middle Triassic age.
Sandstones form a varied broad group of clastic sedimentary
rocks. Depending on their source areas sandstone composition
differs significantly. If we suppose local provenance of this
raw material type, sandstones of the Neogene age are the most
probably used. Also in this case quartz clasts are the most im-
portant as abrasive media (Fig. 5). Their amount in this rock-
type varies, but they are mostly one of the prevailing mineral
components of the given rock.
Individual quartz clasts (up to 1—2 mm in size) are joined
into the compact rock by cleyey or carbonaceous matrix. Soft
matrix and hard clasts together represent a material of very
suitable technical properties for use as smoothers, or polishers
of stone implements. As the site studied is located on the pe-
riphery of the Late Tertiary volcanic mountains, it is common
for the sandstones to also contain volcaniclastic admixture
(originally volcanic ash) or volcanic tuffitic material. This is
the case with several implements of the described category.
In all studied cases this raw material type has been repre-
sented by anchimonomineral rock-types composed of quartz
clastic grains which are lithified by siliceous cement. Such
rock has appropriate hardness and special types of metaquartz-
ite were used as crushers of corn until the Middle Age.
As well a prevailing quartz crystals, quartzite also contains
clastic crystals of micas, feldspars and rarely also other rock-
constituents. In comparison to quartz all of them are softer and
in extreme cases they are completely weathered enabling
pores of small dimension to originate.
Metaquartzites of appropriate technical properties form part
of the Mesozoic mantle unit occurring on the crystalline core
Fig. 5. (Neogene ?) sandstone with calcareous cement. Nitriansky
Hrádok, magn. 45
, X polars.
Fig. 6. (Permian ?) metaconglomerate with detritic-hematite ce-
ment. Nitriansky Hrádok, magn. 7
, X polars.
of the Tribeč Mts. So also in this case one-day’s-walk-distance
is an important factor for practical use of the Lower Triassic
Tribeč Mts metaquartzites as a raw material for stone bases
From the geological point of view conglomerates, and their
metamorphic derivatives, represent a very significant rock ho-
rizon. The majority of conglomerates are product of sedimen-
tation in water basins just after transgression, and in the major-
ity of cases their clasts reflect the geological structure of their
In respect to the site of Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček Permi-
an and Lower Triassic metaconglomerates of the Tribeč Mts
should be mentioned. Their fine-grained varieties (Fig. 6)
composed of preivailing quartz clasts (2—8 mm) with sandy
matrix, are especially suitable for making stone bases and
crushers. Slight metamorphic recrystallization of the Alpine
age made Permian and Triassic conglomerates more compact
and pronouncedly harder. Such properties are for stone bases
and crushers favourable.
The archaeological site of Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček
(western Slovakia) is of polycultural character. The place is
situated on the alluvial elevation of the river Nitra and Cítenka
brook. The underlying strata are formed by loess, flood and
wash sediments. Rich finds of stone industry help to create the
picture of daily activities of people living in individual peri-
ods. Stone tools and implements for land cultivation (thoes),
wood treatment (axe-hammers, adzes), grain grinding, etc. are
characteristic. They were made by various manufacturing
techniques and of various raw materials (Illášová & Hovorka
Raw material studies of Neolithic/Aeneolithic implements
realized on the archaeological site of Nitriansky Hrádok-
Zámeček during the most recent years have brought new as-
pects into the given problem. Using standard modern petro-
graphical laboratory methods, the information on the stone
tion, b) whetstones – for shaping of polished stone imple-
ments, c) working tables – for various working activities.
The prevailing raw material of stone bases from the site of
Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček was metaconglomerate. They are
coarse grained rocks with prevailing quartz and rounded peb-
bles of for example granitoid rocks.
The provenience of the raw materials were probably the
Tribeč Mts, a one-day’s-walk-distance from the site. The
andesites and basalts from the Late Tertiary volcanic mountain
ranges have their origin in central Slovakia (Pohronský In-
ovec, Kremnické and Štiavnické vrchy) Mts.
Illášová . 2000: Stone bases from Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček.
Ma arovce culture. Pravěk I., Brno, 15.
Illášová . & Hovorka D. 1999: Stone artefacts from the polycultur-
al site of Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček. Štúdijné Zvesti Archeol.
Ústavu SAV, 33, Nitra, 53—143 (in Slovak).
Pavúk J. & Šiška S. 1971: Neolithic and Aeneolithic settlement of
Slovakia. Slov. Archeol. 19, 319—364 (in Slovak).
Točík A. 1981: Nitriansky Hrádok-Zámeček. Bronzezeitliche be-
stigte Ansiedlung der Ma arovce Kultúr. Archeol. Ústav SAV
raw materials used by the Neolithic/Aeneolithic populations
have been significantly enlarged.
The Neolithic/Aeneolithic population of given site used
only more or less local raw materials for production of stone
bases and crushers. Under “local” we mean distances of “one-
day’s-walk” which is the case with all determined raw materi-
The dominant abrasive component of raw materials used is
quartz or silicate-group minerals. Their presence in combina-
tion with softer matrix, the local presence of fine pores or
weathered components (feldspars) of matrix enabled use of
the above mentioned rock-types as suitable abrasive matter.
On the basis of the discrete grain-size of individual raw ma-
terial types they have been used in various technologies, for
example fine-grained sandstones or limestones have been
used as smoother or polisher rather than as the stone bases or
The bases and crushers from the site of Nitriansky Hrádok-
Zámeček represent a rich collection of finds revealed in testing
pits and sectors.
The stone bases, including crushers, probably served as: a)
stone bases for crushing of grains, seeds or fibrous organic
products, for homogenization of clay used for pottery produc-