Obsidian Sourcing in Western Beringia


Chemical sourcing of obsidian artifacts serves an important role in understanding prehistoric patterns of mobility, trade, exchange, resource exploitation, and cultural interaction. In Alaska and adjacent areas of Canada, more than 8,000 obsidian artifacts and geologic source samples have been analyzed by various analytical techniques resulting in the identification of more than 50 chemically discrete obsidian groups throughout this vast area. In contrast to Alaska, comparatively little chemistry-based sourcing has occurred in adjacent regions of Russia (Chuktoka, Kolyma, and northern Kamchatka Peninsula). In 2015, we analyzed, using pXRF, approximately 1000 artifacts from 60+ sites housed in the archaeological collections of the North-East Interdisciplinary Scientific Research Institute in Magadan, Russia. The results of this large-scale study indicate that the majority of obsidian from Chukotka and Kolyma originate from a few sources within the Anadyr River system/Krasnoye Lake area of Chukotka. Additionally we identified several examples of long-distance movement of obsidian from Hokkaido to the northern coast of the Okhost Sea as well examples of obsidian movement from the central range of Kamchatka to Aion Island on the northern coast of the Chukotka Peninsula. Additionally, we documented the use of tektites from the El’gygytgyn impact crater for use as stone tools.

Cite this Record

Obsidian Sourcing in Western Beringia. Robert Speakman, Sergey Slobodin, Jeffrey Rasic. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404775)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Beringia Obsidian XRF