Abstract

“Fingerprinting” lithic artefacts using whole-sample geochemistry is a simple, inexpensive, technique that can supply archaeologists with important provenance and trade information. To demonstrate its utility, it is applied here to basalt vessels produced by Near East societies encompassing the millennia and geographic areas where civilization arose and writing developed. Using published whole-sample geochemical data for bedrock samples, exploratory statistical techniques show that Jordanian and Egyptian basalts are fundamentally distinct. Petrogenetically significant plots (V–Ti) and element ratios (Rb/Sr, Nb/Y, Sr/Zr) efficiently “fingerprint” and separate Jordanian and Egyptian bedrock basalt samples and Levantine and Egyptian basaltic artefacts. The results show that most basalt artefacts were manufactured and used within the geographic regions and culture areas where they were produced. However, a representative sample of some typologically distinct basaltic artefacts from Maadi, Egypt, geochemically resembles Palestinian basalts and quantitatively confirms archaeological evidence that trade interactions between Egyptian and Jordanian Neolithic societies were established early. Thus, knowledge of the bedrock source of raw materials used in the manufacture of basaltic artefacts is useful for inferring trade and social interaction between and within these cultures.

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