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Comparison of obsidian and chert consumption during the Middle Helladic at Kirrha, Phocis, Greece

Montagné, Marie-Philippine
Quaternary international 2019 v.508 pp. 1-12
brittleness, cutting, glass, harvesting, industry, metallurgy, raw materials, transportation, Greece
Lithic artifacts were still in use in Bronze Age Europe, in spite of the emergence of a new technology, namely metallurgy, during this period. In fact, stone technology continued to be used everywhere until at least the end of the Early Bronze Age, and even until the end of the Late Bronze Age in specific areas. This is especially true for Greece where lithic raw material and/or tool networks were still operating during the whole Bronze Age. During the Middle Bronze Age in mainland Greece, obsidian and high-quality chert were still widely used, especially in settlements. This raises the question of the necessity of the use of obsidian instead of a stronger or more versatile material (chert or metal). Why was volcanic glass, which required considerable investment in terms of know-how and long-distance transportation, still used in spite of the technological context (where metallurgy was already developed)? The purpose of this paper is to contribute to this debate through the use-wear analysis of obsidian tools. Artifacts from settlement levels of the Middle Helladic site of Kirrha (Phocis, Greece) have been examined. In this domestic-use context, bronze and chert were also found. The main results of this study show an exclusive form and use of obsidian: bladelets were used for cutting soft and siliceous plant matter, with the exception of Graminae harvesting activity. These results point to the specialization of the lithic industry in terms of raw materials, where sharp obsidian artefacts were employed for cutting of soft and flexible materials, depending on the relative brittleness of the rock, at least at Kirrha. Thus, among the numerous propositions concerning continued obsidian circulation during the entire Bronze Age, a functional use (at least) could be proven, if this observation is also made elsewhere in Greece.