Scientific context

The lithic artefacts found in archaeological excavations reflect the diffusion of obsidian from Anatolian sources throughout the Near-East. Since the pioneering work of Cann and Renfrew (1964), an increasing number of studies have focused on Anatolian obsidian (among others: Cauvin et al., 1998; Chataigner et al., 1998; Poidevin, 1998; Özdoğan & Bagelen, 1999). At the same time, several excavations in Anatolia, the Caucasus and the Near-East have revealed obsidian artefacts which have been correlated to geological sources in Central Anatolia or the Caucasus (e.g. : Astruc et al. 2011, Khalidi et al. 2009), but numerous artefacts still have an unknown origin.

These artefacts may originate from one of the thirteen Eastern Anatolia “areas” where obsidian is present. However these area are still poorly documented. This is probably the case for the famous “source 3D” defined by Renfrew, and frequently found in Mesopotamian archaeological sites but which remains un-localized. Unexpected occurrences of obsidian from north eastern Turkey or Armenia (such as Pasinler, Digor, Meydan Dağ or Arteni) are also occasionally encountered on Mesopotamian archaeological sites (Tell Zeidan, Tell Brak, Tell Hamoukar, Tell Feres). It is thus of primary importance to have a reliable chemical characterization of these obsidian artefacts and to locate precisely both primary and secondary sources.

The field studies conducted in the Göllüdağ in central Anatolia by a part of our team (Mouralis, 2003; Binder et al. 2011; Balkan et al. 2011; Erturaç et al. 2010.) have shown the complexity of the task when the definition of a ‘source’ is questioned. Thanks to the complementarity of our team, the GeObs project aims to combine field and analytical experience developed in Central Anatolia together with knowledge in the analysis of obsidian diffusion processes in the Near-East, Anatolia and the Caucasus, with the common aim of developing a systematic knowledge of Eastern Anatolian obsidian.

Until recently, it has been extremely difficult to undertake a systematic analysis of the spatial diffusion of Near-Eastern obsidian due to: (1) some methodological problems and (2) the scarcity of obsidian data (both in primary and secondary position), especially concerning Eastern Anatolia.