Obsidian in the Tavoliere, Southeastern Italy — A regional study

Keri A. Brown, Robert H. Tykot

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    We used portable X-ray fluorescence analysis to perform elemental analysis of 111 obsidian artefacts from 32 Neolithic and two Late Neolithic/Bronze Age sites in the Tavoliere, Italy. This is the first detailed regional Neolithic study of obsidian in Italy. By comparing the elemental compositions with those of Mediterranean obsidian sources, we identified the Gabellotto of Lipari as the source for 99 artefacts and Palmarola as source for twelve artefacts. Within the Tavoliere, the Palmarola obsidian had a more westerly distribution, whereas the Lipari obsidian is more generally distributed. This pattern probably reflects the geographical origin of the obsidian and the trade and exchange networks necessary to bring material to the Tavoliere over land from the west. The obsidian pieces have very few or no signs of use-wear, implying that they may have been used only a few times, or even just once. We suggest that such limited use implies a role for obsidian in special rituals involving rites de passage such as cutting the umbilical cord of newborns or circumcision of boys.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)284-292
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
    Early online date16 May 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


    • Italy
    • Lithic analysis
    • Neolithic
    • Obsidian
    • Portable X-ray fluorescence analysis
    • Tavoliere

    Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

    • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology


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