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Over the mountains and through the desert: obsidian use, procurement, and transportation in Northwest Colorado

Author(s): Sarah MacDonald ; Brian Yaquinto

Year: 2017

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Obsidian is a rare raw material in northwest Colorado. As no naturally occurring sources have been identified in the region, obsidian artifacts recovered at archaeological sites were likely brought in through exchange or direct procurement during seasonal foraging routes. Using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis to identify obsidian sources, this poster addresses three questions related to obsidian artifacts found in the Colorado Bureau of Land Management, White River Field Office (WRFO): what obsidian source materials were used by past inhabitants of the WRFO, how did obsidian sources change over time, and how were these materials transported into the region?

XRF data suggest obsidian artifacts recovered from within the WRFO came entirely from sources outside of Colorado, and that a correlation between certain temporal periods and source may exist. To provide a more robust understanding of the XRF data, potential overland travel routes are predicted through the calculation of least cost paths in ArcGIS. Site data collected by the Colorado Bureau of Land Management, in addition to an examination of ethnohistorical accounts, are compared to the predicted routes to assess the accuracy of the paths.

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Over the mountains and through the desert: obsidian use, procurement, and transportation in Northwest Colorado. Sarah MacDonald, Brian Yaquinto. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429853)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -122.761; min lat: 29.917 ; max long: -109.27; max lat: 42.553 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17426

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America