Not only a tool-stone: Other ways of using obsidian in the Near East

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Obsidian was used widely in the Near East in prehistoric and early historic times to make tools and other objects. We know quite a lot about its use as a tool-stone, but much less about other objects made from it, although such things in other contexts would be regarded as markers of identity. This apparent duality of use raises the question of whether the object made or obsidian as a raw material was more significant; it also raises questions about whether the same crafts-people were involved in both the production of tools and other objects or whether they were separated. As research progresses, we are increasingly realising that there is much information that is scattered and that more holistic and integrated approaches are needed. This demands in-depth study of individual objects using multi-disciplinary approaches. Significant areas for further study include the use of geochemical analysis to determine the provenance of the obsidian from which the objects were made and so to evaluate choice of source. Advanced technological investigation is also needed to elucidate manufacturing methods and techniques. These include studies of manufacturing techniques and surface topography as well as an evaluation of experimental data, not only to elucidate which techniques might have been used but also to assess skill and time input. The objects also need to be examined for indications of use and their context of deposition considered in greater detail. The type of objects produced and the way they were crafted also need to be compared to similar objects made of other materials to see if obsidian had a privileged position. Research into these matters is still at an early stage and
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-81
JournalJournal of Lithic Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2021


  • obsidian; provenance analysis; personal adornment; production technology; grinding and polishing; drilling; identity


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