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Bronze-Age Mesopotamian GeoEconomics: Obsidian Trade at Tell Mozan

Bronze-Age Mesopotamian GeoEconomics: Obsidian Trade at Tell Mozan
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New evidence suggests that during the northern Mesopotamia Bronze Age, obsidian trade routes changed between peoples in (what is now) central Turkey at Tell Mozan and (what is now) Syria. Below are some tidbits about it, including why it is groovy, from ScienceDaily (2012).

Why So Groovy

  • It means that something happened to change a product source to three times farther than the norm.
    • The people at Tell Mozan changed their trade route and relationships, not only to obtain obsidian, but possibly to elevate their status in the region.

Traditional Obsidian Sources at Tell Mozan

  • During the Bronze Age, Tell Mozan’s people (and those in surrounding archaeological sites) obtained their obsidian from volcanoes 200 km (125 mi) away in (what is now) eastern Turkey.

The Change at Tell Mozan

  • 4,200 years ago: obsidian artifacts from a volcano in central Turkey (three times the distance as the traditional source from Tell Mozan) appeared at the Tell (in what is now Syria).
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Obsidian Field by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Not in Turkey but central Oregon, this obsidian boulder field flowed from the southern flank of Newberry Crater. Note the smooth surfaces and sharp edges of the boulders.

 

Obsidian

  • Obsidian is a volcanic glass. It erupts from volcanoes, but cools too fast to develop crystals.

Obsidian Use

  • Obsidian’s lack of crystals means that it can be incredibly smooth and incredibly sharp.
  • When it erupts without gas (gas forms bubbles), it makes great tools.
  • People have used obsidian for cutting tools for millenia all over the world.
  • It’s been used for hunting, food processing, and general knife use, among other things.
  • People still use it today.
  • Today’s uses include scalpels and other medical equipment.

References

ScienceDaily

2012   Syrian Obsidian Discovery Opens New Chapter in Middle Eastern Studies. ScienceDaily (published online September 4, 2012). Electronic document, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120904135334.htm, accessed September 11, 2012. The article was printed from materials of the same name, but published on September 3, 2012, provided by the University of Sheffield at http://www.shef.ac.uk/news/nr/syrian-obsidian-discovery-opens-new-middle-eastern-studies-1.205697, accessed September 11, 2012.

The parent journal article by Ellery Frahm is:

Ellery Frahm. Distinguishing Nemrut Dağ and Bingöl A obsidians: geochemical and landscape differences and the archaeological implicationsJournal of Archaeological Science, 2012; 39 (5): 1436 DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2011.12.038. Note: Unless you already subscribe to that journal, the article pdf will cost $31.50 (US).

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Bronze-Age Mesopotamian GeoEconomics: Obsidian Trade at Tell Mozan by S is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.


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