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Scientists study evolution of exchange networks and social interaction thousands of years ago

An international team led by the CSIC is studying the evolution of exchange networks and social interaction in the Near East 10,000 years ago,  during the transition from the last hunter-gatherer societies to the first farming communities. They will also assess some sophisticated analytical techniques, such as the ones used at the Louvre Museum, with the only particle accelerator in the world located in a museum and devoted to heritage an art study.

 

Tests were performed at the Accélérateur Grand Louvre d'analyse élémentaire (AGLAE-C2RMF), the only particle accelerator in the world located in a museum and devoted to art and heritage studies.

The OBSILEVANT project, led by Ferran Borrell, a researcher at the ‘Milà i Fontanals’ Institution (IMF-CSIC), is aimed at determining the role played by long-distance exchange networks in the origin of agriculture in the Eastern Mediterranean, about 10,000 years ago. As a part of the project, the scientists are analyzing tools made from obsidian, which were found at several Neolithic archaeological sites in Jordan (Kharaysin), Syria (Qarassa) and Israel (Ahihud and Motza).

There are not natural outcrops of obsidian in those countries and the nearest sources are in distant parts of Turkey (Cappadocia and the east of the country) or Armenia. Then, how did obsidian stone reach there? The existence of obsidian objects in these sites demonstrates there was a circulation of finished goods and raw materials from over 1,000 km away, as the scientists explain.

Thousands of years ago, there was a circulation of finished goods and raw materials from over 1,000 km away

The team will analyze the chemical composition of obsidian in these artifacts, to pinpoint their origin and define the development of the exchange networks, when the sites were occupied, about 3,000 years ago.

On the other hand, there is a goal related to methodology: scientists want to find out how reliable is each one of the techniques used for the analysis, and their advantages. For this reason, a series of ‘blind tests’ have been carried out in three laboratories (at the Universities of Manchester and Bordeaux and the Louvre Museum), employing three of the most common techniques: portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF), particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). The results will be useful for assessing the degree of reliability of each technique and their advantages and disadvantages according to the kind of sample being analyzed (size, thickness, surface alterations, etc.).

F. Borrell (IMF-CSIC) and F-X Le Bourdonnec (University of Bordeaux) have carried out a total of 150 tests in the Accélérateur Grand Louvre d'analyse élémentaire (AGLAE-C2RMF), the only particle accelerator in the world located in a museum and fully devoted to the study of works of art and heritage.  These tests were performed in the Louvre Museum within the European Programme H2020 IPERION CH.

 

 

An international team led by the CSIC is studying the evolution of exchange networks and social interaction in the Near East 10,000 years ago, during the transition from the last hunter-gatherer societies to the first farming communities. They will also assess some sophisticated analytical techniques, such as the ones used at the Louvre Museum, with the only particle accelerator in the world located in a museum and devoted to heritage an art study.