Raw materials exploitation in Prehistory:

Sourcing, processing and distribution


10-12 March 2016, Faro - Portugal

ADVANCES IN TRACING THE ORIGIN AND CIRCULATION OF MINERAL-BASED PRESTIGE ITEMS IN THE PREHISTORY OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND ITS ADJACENT REGIONS


Hala ALARASHI - Archéorient-CNRS Lyon, FRANCE

Marie-Laure CHAMBRADE - Archéorient-CNRS Lyon, FRANCE

Lamya KHALIDI - Archéorient-CNRS Lyon, FRANCE

Contact for this session: tracingitems@yahoo.com 


Prehistoric groups have benefited from a large diversity of mineral outcrops like those of quartz, obsidian, carnelian, agate, jade, schist, turquoise, chlorite, serpentine, feldspar, amazonite, copper, marble, limestone, clay, etc. for the production of adornments, figurines, statues, vessels, axes, and other artefacts of prestige and high symbolic value.

Symbolic values of objects are best understood in the context of a reading of the chaine operatoire as well as the socio-cultural and environmental contexts within which the human groups that made or owned them operated. The first step in decorticating the meaning of such items is locating their geological origin in space, and in relation to where they were deposited.

A number of non-destructive physical, chemical and optical methods that allow fingerprinting materials are available to us today. However, save for advances in obsidian provenance, the identification of source outcrops for most of these raw materials remains limited as a result of a dearth of geological surveys and sourcing analysis.

Identification of the origins of such raw materials could provide information on circulation networks and onsocio-cultural interactions between human groups, complementing existing obsidian data. In this session we invite contributions on new analytical methods used to source mineral raw materials used to make objects of prestige with the aim of answering the following questions: Which materials or objects circulated in prehistory, in what form (raw material, preforms, finished products) and over what distances? Were these materials circulating in the same networks as obsidian or in different ones? What was the role of human communities settled near sources regarding the exploitation, transformation and distribution of raw materials or finished objects?

In this session we aim to discuss the origin of the varied mineral materials found in the form of items of prestige in the Near East, northeast Africa, Anatolia and the Caucasus, Iran and the Gulf, and their circulation networks. We focus on new methods used for their identification, sourcing and technological study. Papers presenting new field or remote sensing methods, new methods in GIS and modelling, geological surveys and databases (“lithotheques”) are especially welcome.

 

Keywords: Carnelian; Turquoise; Obsidian; Raw material sourcing; Circulation networks.