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Larrasoaña, J. C., E. Beamud, M. Olivares, X. Murelaga, A. Tarriño, J. I. Baceta, and N. Etxebarria (2016), Magnetic Properties of Cherts from the Basque-Cantabrian Basin and Surrounding Regions: Archeological Implications, Frontiers in Earth Science, 4(35), doi: 10.3389/feart.2016.00035.


We present the first rock magnetic study of archeologically-relevant chert samples from the Basque-Cantabrian basin (BCB) and surrounding regions, which was conducted in order to test the usefulness of non-destructive magnetic properties for assessing chert quality, distinguishing source areas, and identifying heated samples in the archeological record. Our results indicate that the studied BCB cherts are diamagnetic and have very low amounts of magnetic minerals. The only exception is the chert of Artxilondo, which has a median positive magnetic susceptibility associated with larger concentrations of magnetic minerals. But even in this case, the magnetic susceptibility is within the lower range of other archeologically-relevant cherts elsewhere, which indicates that the studied BCB cherts can be considered as flint. The similar median values for all magnetic properties, along with their associated large interquartile ranges, indicates that rock magnetic methods are of limited use for sourcing different types of flint except in some specific contexts involving the Artxilondo flint. With regards to the identification of chert heating in the archeological record, our results indicate only a minor magnetic enhancement of BCB natural flint samples upon heating, which we attribute to the low amount of non-silica impurities. In any case, the diamagnetic behavior of most BCB natural flints, along with the local use only of the Artxilondo type, suggests that any flint tool within the core of the BCB with positive magnetic susceptibility values is likely to have been subjected to heating for improving its knapping properties. Further studies are necessary to better identify the type, origin and grain size of magnetic minerals in BCB natural flints, and to apply non-destructive magnetic properties to flint tools in order to identify the use of heat treatment in the BCB archeological record.

Reference article