Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Robert H. Tykot, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent R. Weisman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey Ryan, Ph.D.


Obsidian, Western Mediterranean, Neolithic, Trade, Lithic Technology


The study of prehistoric trade and exchange networks in the Western Mediterranean is directly linked to the identification and location of commodities available to Neolithic communities in that region. One of these commodities is a volcanic glass commonly known as obsidian.

This investigation focused on the procurement, processing, and distribution of obsidian from the island of Pantelleria, situated between the southwestern coast of Sicily in the Straits of Sicily and the northeastern coast of Africa near Cape Bon, Tunisia. Previous studies indicate that there are several chemically different source areas on the island.

Research involved the identification of primary obsidian deposits and the collection of samples from primary and/or secondary sources. The position of each collection point was recorded using GPS coordinates, photographs, and physical descriptions, including accessibility and geological matrix. Additional information regarding the size, frequency, and grade (i.e. quality for tool production) was also noted.

Each geological specimen and artifact was visually examined for color, luster, transparency and internal structure. Geological samples and artifacts were subjected to trace element analysis, and the density weight of each piece was determined.

Multivariate analyses of these test results were used to establish the unique chemical signature of each primary source on Pantelleria and to identify the specific flows where obsidian was collected by Neolithic and Bronze Age communities on Pantelleria and Zembra.

Artifacts from Late Neolithic and Bronze Age sites on Pantelleria, and from Zembra, a Late Neolithic site located on an island situated off the northeast coast of Tunisia near Cape Bon were also included in this study.

The results of this research has proven the importance of using large geological sample populations in determining the unique geochemical signatures of obsidian flows on Italian source islands, and will enable researchers to identify with greater certainty the source of raw material used to create obsidian tools in the Western Mediterranean.