Abstracts U-X

Prehistoric transitions: moving away from obsidian in southern Italy
Dr A Vianello
Prof. Robert H. Tykot

A systematic survey of obsidian found in Sicily and Calabria, Italy, is revealing the consumption and distribution patterns. Preliminary results from pXRF analyses reveal that Lipari obsidian was dominant. A typological study shows that it was used mostly in the form of small blades, which change very little in time. The obsidian is used from the early Neolithic (shortly after the geological source is formed) and continues until the Bronze Age. The results include the discovery that obsidian was accessed by a single group given the characteristic proportion in the sourcing between two different geological sources detected at most sites. However, there are limits about what pXRF analyses and distribution patterns can tell us. To understand the function and importance of obsidian in such repetitive assemblages replicated across vast geographic areas, we are trying some innovative research on aspects that are usually neglected. The particular use of obsidian exclusively for the production of cutting tools, regardless of the context of use, means that metals directly replaced obsidian for that use during the Bronze Age. In the area considered, metals appear in the archaeological record in meaningful quantities only from the Late Bronze Age, when obsidian stops being distributed. During the Bronze Age, there was an unusual clash between an established technology easily sourced and an incoming one presenting some challenges. By combining the study of raw materials with the analysis of technology, we are able to appreciate the qualities of obsidian and its associated exchange network that ensured its long success.