Long Distance Material Movement in the Mediterranean: Obsidian Transport, Trade, and Technology

Author(s): Robert Tykot

Year: 2015


In the Mediterranean Neolithic, obsidian often traveled over 100 kilometers from the geological island sources. The capabilities of interregional maritime transport of many foreign materials by the late 7th millennium BC is demonstrated by the settlement of these islands and with the neolithic package of animals brought from the mainland. The quantity, quality, accessibility, and physical and visual features of obsidian from each source has been well studied, and chemical analysis distinguishes not just each island, but specific subsources, while some primary production areas have been identified. Extensive analyses of obsidian artifacts from many archaeological sites in Italy, France, Croatia, Malta, and Tunisia has enabled interpretations about the chaîne opératoire, and how production, transport, and use changed over thousands of years. Results of my research on the geological sources and subsources, and chemical analysis of more than 6000 obsidian artifacts, show that obsidian was used in clearly discriminatory patterns, with selected use of certain subsources; there was inter-regional and intra-site variation in source utilization and frequency of transport; and there were likely socioeconomic changes over the course of the Neolithic which affected access to the sources, the scale of production, and the parallel movement of knowledge, ceramics, and other materials.

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Cite this Record

Long Distance Material Movement in the Mediterranean: Obsidian Transport, Trade, and Technology. Robert Tykot. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396348)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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