Neolithic Social Networks By Way Of Obsidian Blades
The networks of the Neolithic people are larger and more complicated than previously thought, according to an analysis of obsidian blades.
A recent study1 reveals that the Neolithic networks are more complicated than previously thought, based on an analysis of obsidian artifacts discovered during the 1960s at two significant archaeological sites in southwest Iran. This study is the first to utilize cutting-edge analytical techniques on a group of 2,100 obsidian objects kept at the Yale Peabody Museum.
The artifacts were first discovered more than 50 years ago at the sites of Ali Kosh and Chagha Sefid on Iran's Deh Luran Plain, which also produced significant archaeological discoveries from the Neolithic Era, date to around 12,000 years ago and was characterized by the introduction of agriculture, animal domestication, and the development of permanent settlements. Several excavations of the two sites in the 1960s resulted in the collection of the objects.
The artifacts' appearance, particularly their hue when exposed to sunlight, was the primary factor in the original assessments. Then, a subset of 28 artifacts were subjected to an elemental analysis technique used at the time, which included powdering them. Early research conducted soon after the artifacts were found revealed that people originally obtained obsidian from Nemrut Dağ, a now-dormant volcano in Eastern Turkey, and subsequently relied on an unidentified second source.
But now, the obsidian was found to have originated from seven different sources, including Nemrut Dağ, which is located in modern-day Turkey and Armenia, more than 1,000 miles away from the excavation locations. It wasn't just a case of folks getting obsidian from one place, then switching to another. Instead, analysis reveals that throughout time, they were obtaining obsidian from a wider variety of geological sources—a pattern that was impossible to identify with the tools and techniques available 50 years ago.
All aspects of the findings made at these locations have been studied again since the 1960s, with the exception of the elemental makeup and source of the obsidian items. Sorting obsidian by color will inevitably overlook many subtleties because far more is known about the source volcanoes today than it was fifty years ago. The current authors are the first scientists to investigate the elemental makeup of the obsidian objects. They examined the entire collection using cutting-edge portable X-ray fluorescence devices without causing any damage to the artifacts.
A greater number of Neolithic communities may have existed between the source volcanoes and the two sites where the items were discovered thousands of years later, according to the new investigation, which also includes computer modeling. The general consensus among scientists was that the shift from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural society resulted in a time of fast population growth because of the higher birth rates made possible by improved food supply and long-term settlements. Excavating sites with burial sites can reveal the population of a particular community and provide researchers a better understanding of how agriculture allowed people to spread out across a region.
Similar proof came from the researchers' study of the obsidian. The movement of these obsidian objects across time, from their sources to their endpoints, may be traced. This information aids in understanding population changes in the area during the Neolithic Era. It revealed there were more towns and larger social networks than we had previously imagined between the source volcanoes and the excavation sites.
Frahm, E., & Carolus, C. M. (2022). Identifying the origins of obsidian artifacts in the Deh Luran Plain (Southwestern Iran) highlights community connections in the Neolithic Zagros. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(43). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2109321119