Reconstruction of exchange and trade routes of the peri-Mediterranean obsidian archaeological assemblages


Obsidian, a volcanic glass, is a particularly well-suited tool for understanding past trade and travel networks. Each obsidian flow has indeed a unique geochemical 'fingerprint', which allows each artefact to be traced back to its geological source and initial archaeological collection region. Since the 1960's, analytical methods used to characterise obsidian and other rocks have seriously improved in precision and effectiveness. The use of analytical techniques such as PIXE-PIGME, SEM-EDS, XRF, INAA, ICP-MS or LA-ICP-MS, have led to various degrees of success, and methodological problems still remain (artefact's size, surface regularity, soil contamination, etc.). While most of these techniques allow the characterisation of the main obsidian sources, some artefacts provenance remain problematic, requiring more enhanced methods.To overcome these questions, we propose to use a multi-isotope ratio analyses in a geologically well-known region, the peri-Mediterranean area.

Obsidian, a volcanic glass
Obsidian artefact from Qdeir 1, a Syrian Neolithic site. (credits: F.Abbès; M.Orange)


  • RJB SCU postdoctoral Fellowship

SCU Investigator(s)

  • Ms Marie Orange (SCU)
  • A/Prof Anja Scheffers
  • Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau


    Dr François-Xavier Le Bourdonnec (IRAMAT-CRP2A, Université Bordeaux 3, Pessac, France)