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Obsidian and Early Cultural Contact in the Near East

  • Colin Renfrew (a1), J. E. Dixon (a2) and J. R. Cann (a2)

Obsidian was not necessarily the earliest object of trade, but it certainly seems to be the first for which material evidence remains. It has been reported from nearly every Early Neolithic settlement in the Near East, although many of these sites are distant from the natural sources.

In our first paper (Cann and Renfrew 1964), we outlined a method for the characterization, by trace-element analysis, of obsidian artifacts from archaeological contexts. This allowed the determination of the natural sources from which the material derived. In that paper, however, only the west Mediterranean region was considered in sufficient detail to give definitive results. The obsidian trade in the Aegean has subsequently been studied in detail also (Renfrew, Cann and Dixon 1965).

In the present paper, the obsidian trade in the Near East is examined. This topic is particularly important since obsidian seems to be the most promising approach towards understanding the extent to which the different Early Neolithic cultural and ecological regions were in contact. It should help to suggest how the early spread in the knowledge and use of animal and plant domesticates took place in the Near East.

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Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
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