Eastern Anatolian Obsidians at Catalhoyuk and the Reconfiguration of Regional Interaction in the Early Ceramic Neolithic

By Carter, Tristan; Dubernet, Stephan et al. | Antiquity, December 2008 | Go to article overview
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Eastern Anatolian Obsidians at Catalhoyuk and the Reconfiguration of Regional Interaction in the Early Ceramic Neolithic

Carter, Tristan, Dubernet, Stephan, King, Rachei, Le Bourdonnec, Francois-Xavier, Milic, Marina, Poupeau, Gerard, Shackley, M. Steven, Antiquity


Studies over the past 40 years have demonstrated that the inhabitants of Neolithic Catalh6yuk relied almost entirely on obsidian from its nearest sources in Cappadocia (some 200 linear km to the north-east; Figure 1), primarily East Gollu Dag and Nenezi Dag. This source of supply is entirely in keeping with data from other central Anatolian sites (Carter et al. 2006a; Carter & Shackley 2007). This paper details the first evidence for peralkaline Eastern Anatolian obsidians at Catalhoyuk, this being the furthest west such materials have been found. The artefacts, shown to be made of obsidian from the mountains of Bing61 and/or Nemrut Dag, comprise five prismatic blades from Early Ceramic Neolithic (ECN) contexts on the East Mound (Catalh6yuk East; Figure 2). It is proposed that the presence of Eastern Anatolian products at Catalhoyuk reflects a change in inter-regional relations in the second half of the seventh millennium cal BC, the objects themselves providing new media for the creation of social distinction for certain members of the community.


Peralkaline obsidians at Catalhoyuk

The basis of this paper is the elemental characterisation of 58 obsidian artefacts from ECN Catalhoyuk, of which 40 (together with geological samples from various Anatolian sources), were characterised by partide induced x-ray emission (PIXE) at the Accelerateur Grand Louvre pour Analyses Elementaires facility of C2RMF, the remaining 18 being analysed by energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence (EDX1LF) spectrometer at UC Berkdey's Archaeological XRF Lab. The methodological specifics and elemental data will be reported elsewhere (for laboratory protocols see Shackley 2005: 193-95; Luglie et al. 2007).

Ina Zirconium vs. Zinc contents plot (Figure 3) 43 artefacts are located towards the low end of the diagram; these relate to Cappadocian sources (cf. Poidevin 1998; Carter & Shackley 2007: Figure 4). The remaining five artefacts are situated in the chart's upper right due to their significantly higher Zr and Zn contents. The chemical signatures of these pieces indicate that these are peralkaline obsidians, relatively rare and geochemically distinct volcanic products, whose sole occurrence in the Eastern Mediterranean is in south-east Anatolia. They are sourced to Nemrut Dag and certain outcrops of the Bingol massif (Poidevin 1998: 136-42), as represented on our graph by four geologicai samples: one from Bingol-Karan Solhan/Cavuslar and three from Nemrut Dag-inside of caldera/ 'lakeside'. The geochemical similarity of these volcanoes peralkaline raw materials means that we unfortunately cannot tell which specific source(s) supplied the raw materials to make these blades, despite Bing61 and Nemrut Dag being 150km apart (Chataigner 1994; Poidevin 1998: 141-2). Here it is sufficient to highlight that these implements were made from obsidian that originated 650-825km distant and that the recovery of this material at Catalhoyuk extends the western distribution of these obsidians by 300km.The five peralkaline obsidian blades have a greenish hue (Figure 4), and sometimes an oily texture, characteristics that make them stand out from the dominant Cappadocian obsidians (Figure 5). The blades appear to have been pressure-flaked from unipolar cores, their variant widths suggesting the use of more than one production technique (Figure 6). The remnant cresting scars on OB315 are noteworthy, as this distinctive mode of core preparation is not something associated with Cappadocian obsidian blade technologies at ECN Catalhoyuk, suggesting that the peralkaline products were likely made by outsiders employing different traditions. Each displayed use-wear and four were retouched, including a piercer/perforator (OB313). The widest blade OB312 has a denticulated profile and the kind of intense edge damage (Figure 7) associated with harvesting/cereal processing (cf.

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Eastern Anatolian Obsidians at Catalhoyuk and the Reconfiguration of Regional Interaction in the Early Ceramic Neolithic


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