Obsidian Procurement and Distribution in the Central and Western Mediterranean

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Mediterranean Archaeology, obsidian, society, trade

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Obsidian has long been recognized as an indicator of long-distance, maritime-based exchange networks in the Neolithic central and western Mediterranean. Earlier studies have identified and chemically characterized the major island sources, but few subsequent efforts have been directed at determining the provenance of significant numbers of artifacts from secure archaeological contexts. This paper presents new interpretations of obsidian procurement and distribution based on the chemical and visual sourcing of more than 2700 artifacts from island and mainland sites in France and Italy, and discusses the spatially and temporally dynamic economic and social role of obsidian. Finally, it is suggested that long-distance prestige exchange of obsidian and other materials was an important way of maintaining ethnic or kin connections in increasingly sedentary Neolithic societies.

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Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, v. 9, issue 1, p. 39-82