OBSIDIAN IN THE MEDITERRANEAN AND THE NEAR EAST: A PROVENANCING SUCCESS STORY

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Abstract

Obsidian provenancing studies comprise one of the most productive and successful research programmes of archaeological science. Obsidian characterization has been successful because workable obsidian is homogeneous on a small scale, analysable by a large number of methods, and is restricted to a small number of mainly readily distinguishable geological sources. Analytical, dating, source, and trade studies within the western Mediterranean, central and eastern Europe, the Aegean, and Anatolia and the Near East during the last 30 years or so are reviewed. Research has shown that distributions are mainly separate in the four regions examined, and that obsidian was traded up to 900km in the prehistoric period. Publications on obsidian in the areas under review reached a peak of frequency in the later 1970s and 1980s, but have now decreased in number. This may reflect changing fashions in archaeometric studies, and a current lack of routine application of the provenancing methods developed.

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