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The Challenge of Characterising Large Assemblages of Exotic Materials: a case study of the obsidian from Domuztepe, SE Turkey

Elizabeth Healey and Stuart Campbell

School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL. Email: elizabeth.healey@manchester.ac.uk; stuart.campbell@manchester.ac.uk

Cite this as: Elizabeth Healey and Stuart Campbell 2009 'The Challenge of Characterising Large Assemblages of Exotic Materials: a case study of the obsidian from Domuztepe, SE Turkey', Internet Archaeology 26. http://dx.doi.org/10.11141/ia.26.20

Summary

Obsidian artefacts from Domuztepe (a large late Neolithic site in the Kahramanmaraş plain in south-east Turkey belonging to the Halaf culture and dated to c. 6000-5500 cal. BC) account for about 18%, or some 10,000 artefacts, of the chipped stone assemblage. Obsidian is one of the few non-local materials at Domuztepe and as well as being used to make tools it is also used to make items of jewellery, mirrors, bowls and axe-like objects. We know from the geochemical analysis of a relatively small number of artefacts that the obsidian was imported from eight different and widely separated sources in Central, NE and SE Anatolia. These sources are between 200 and 900km distant from Domuztepe.

All these factors suggest that obsidian was valued not only as a raw material for tool manufacture but also as a material from which to make luxury items. As an exotic material it is also likely to have a key role in forging and maintaining social and economic relationships, both within the site and more widely. Understanding of the origins of the obsidians and the form in which they were obtained, worked and used, context by context, is key to this. However, difficulties arise with provenancing such a large assemblage, not least because conventional geo-chemical methods are unfeasibly expensive. This article documents the approaches we have developed to overcome this problem.

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