A Longue Durée Approach to Obsidian Consumption and Social Value in Prehistoric Sicily (Italy)

Author(s): Andrea Vianello; Robert Tykot; Kyle Freund

Year: 2015


This study focuses on the long-term exploitation of obsidian in prehistoric Sicily and the factors that influenced the procurement and consumption of these raw materials from the sixth to second millennia B.C. A detailed study of 6,287 prehistoric artifacts from 43 sites shows that the vast majority of obsidian found in Sicily comes from a single Lipari subsource, with smaller quantities of Pantelleria obsidian found in the west. Despite differences in the color and physical properties of these raw materials, there is a remarkable continuity through time in the use of both Lipari and Pantelleria obsidians to produce pressure-flaked blades. While obsidian undoubtedly served as a raw material for the production of stone tools, it is argued that much of the social value of obsidian rested in its capacity to facilitate social relations, where the circulation of these products through maritime networks of interaction both underpinned and reflected social structure. This paper presents new data on the long-term use of obsidian on the island of Sicily and in doing so makes an important contribution to the study of the various symbolic, ceremonial, and functional roles that these raw materials played in prehistoric society.

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Cite this Record

A Longue Durée Approach to Obsidian Consumption and Social Value in Prehistoric Sicily (Italy). Kyle Freund, Robert Tykot, Andrea Vianello. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394994)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;