Abstract

The natural hydration of obsidian was first proposed as a dating technique for young geological and archaeological specimens by Friedman and Smith (1960), who noted that the thickness of the hydrated layer on obsidian artifacts increases with time. This approach is, however, sensitive to temperature and humidity under earth-surface conditions. This has made obsidian hydration dating more difficult, but potentially provides a unique tool for paleoclimatic reconstructions. In this paper we present the first successful application of this approach, based on combining laboratory-based experimental calibrations with archaeological samples from the Chalco site in the Basin of Mexico, dated using stratigraphically correlated 14C results and measuring hydration depths by secondary ion mass spectrometry. The resultant data suggest, first, that this approach is viable, even given the existing uncertainties, and that a cooling trend occurred in the Basin of Mexico over the past 1450 yr, a result corroborated by other paleoclimatic data.

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