HAEMUS Journal Vol. 2 (2013)

Ruslan I. Kostov
Nephrite-yielding Prehistoric Cultures and Nephrite Occurrences in Europe: Archaeomineralogical Review


Nephrite-yielding prehistoric cultures in Europe have been using nephrite artifacts usually as axes or as ritual objects (including amulets). The nephrite artifacts are traced in prehistoric (Neolithic-Chalcolithic) cultures from the Balkans (end of 7th-5th mill. BC – “Balkan nephrite culture”) in South-East Europe and Sardinia (Italy; end of 5th-I4th mill. BC) to Central and Western Europe (Southern Poland and the Alpine lakes area of Switzerland and Germany – 5th-3th mill. BC). The largest number of nephrite artifacts on the Balkans is reported from Bulgaria, and in Central Europe – from the Alpine lakes area, with the largest number known from Maurach. For certain prehistoric sites, the source of nephrite is not yet known. Archaeomineralogical studies are suggested to be made in this respect for tracing prehistoric trade routes and nephrite outcrops. Nephrite occurrences in Europe are known and reported from (in alphabetical order): Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia (European part of the Russian Federation), Spain, Switzerland, Turkey (Turkish Thrace) and Ukraine. Almost all of the nephrite occurrences are of the serpentinite metasomatic genetic type and only in a few cases – of the dolomitic marble genetic type (Val Malenco, Italy; Scortaseo, Switzerland). Rare secondary glacier-related type nephrite finds in the northern part of Europe are also reported.

Key words: nephrite, prehistory, Europe, archaeomineralogy

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for the history and archaeology of the Balkan peninsula
ISSN 1857- 8411

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