| 6 June 2017
Tool sharpens focus on network in ancient Middle East
A stone tool discovered in Syria some 80 years ago is helping archaeologists gain a greater understanding of networks in the Stone Age. The stone itself is small enough to fit in an adult's hand as is dated to between 41,000 and 32,000 year ago, according to archaeologists Ellery Frahm and Thomas Hauck.
The tool was fashioned out of volcanic outcrops found in central Turkey, which lies at least 700 kilometres from the artefact's site. This makes the stone almost 30,000 to 20,000 year older than the obsidian stone that was thought to be the earliest of its type to be transported. According to Fahm of Yale University and Hauck of the University of Cologne in Germany, the tool was most likely shaped into a useable tool near its Turkish source. They also believe the tool was passed from one mobile group to the next before reaching its deposition site at the Yabroud II rock-shelter.
Even though the shortest route between the two sites about 700 kilometres, hunter-gatherers are known to have meandered so it is believed that it travelled further. "They didn't type 'Yabroud' into a GPS unit and make their way to the rock-shelter as fast as possible," Frahm says.
The tool was found at the Yabroud sites between 1930 and 1933, though its inclusion was thought to be a mistake until it was noted in the lead excavator's book that it was found in sediment layers dated to around the time of Neanderthals and ancient humans. Frahm and Hauck used a portable x-ray device to determine the chemical composition of the tool and 230 obsidian samples from other sites in southwestern Asia, which led them to the Turkish source.
The transportation of obsidian tools outside of Middle East have occurred in Stone Age Eurasia based on the discovery of obsidian pieces found in 1966 in Iraq's Shanidar Cave, which originated some 450 kilometres north of the cave. "That analysis used an earlier technique for measuring a stone's chemical composition. Shanidar's obsidian finds date to about the same time as that of the Yabroud II obsidian tool, perhaps to as early as 48,000 years ago," Frahm says.
Edited from ScienceNews 23 May 2017
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