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9500 year old obsidian bracelet shows exceptional craft skills

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Adam Hawthorne
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« on: July 12, 2014, 12:42:30 am »

   
9500 year old obsidian bracelet shows exceptional craft skills

Article created on Tuesday, December 27, 2011
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Researchers have analysed the oldest obsidian bracelet ever identified, discovered in the 1990s at the site of Aşıklı Höyük, Turkey.
A high level of technical expertise

Using high-tech methods developed by LTDS to study the bracelet’s surface and micro-topographic features, the researchers have revealed the astounding technical expertise of craftsmen in the eighth millennium BCE.
Digital reconstruction of the bracelet proposed by Mohamed Ben Tkaya (LTDS)

Digital reconstruction of the bracelet proposed by Mohamed Ben Tkaya (LTDS)

Their skills were highly sophisticated for this period in late prehistory, and on a par with today’s polishing techniques. This work is published in the December 2011 issue of Journal of Archaeological Science, and sheds new light on Neolithic societies.

Dated to 7500 BCE, the obsidian bracelet studied by the researchers is unique. It is the earliest evidence of this kind of obsidian working, which only reached its peak in the seventh and sixth millennia BC with the production of all kinds of ornamental objects, including mirrors and vessels. It has a complex shape and a remarkable central annular ridge, and measures 10 cm in diameter and 3.3 cm wide.

Discovered in 1995 at the exceptional site of Asıklı Höyük in Turkey and displayed ever since at the Aksaray Archaeological Museum, the bracelet was studied in 2009, after Mihriban Özbasaran, Professor at the University of Istanbul’s Department of Prehistory, resumed excavations at the site.

Laurence Astruc, a CNRS researcher at the IFEA  and her colleagues analysed the bracelet using extremely powerful computer technologies originally developed for industry in order to characterise the ‘orange peel effect’ on painted car bodywork. These methods, known as multi-scale tribological analysis, have been adapted for the study of micro-topographic features on archaeological artefacts. They seek to identify every single operation performed on the surface of these objects.
A work of precise beauty

This process has revealed that the bracelet was made using highly specialised manufacturing techniques. The analyses carried out showed that the bracelet was almost perfectly regular. The symmetry of the central annular ridge is extremely precise, to the nearest degree and nearest hundred micrometres. This suggests that the artisans of the time used models to control its shape when it was being made. The surface finish of the bracelet required the use of complex polishing techniques capable of obtaining a nanometre-scale surface quality worthy of today’s telescope lenses.
The obsidian bracelet from Aşıklı Höyük. a. Shape and dimensions, b. Symmetry of the object. © Obsidian Use Project Archives.

The obsidian bracelet from Aşıklı Höyük. a. Shape and dimensions, b. Symmetry of the object. © Obsidian Use Project Archives.

Led by Laurence Astruc, the work was carried out in collaboration with the University of Istanbul and was funded by France’s National Research Agency as part of the ‘Obsidian: Practical Techniques and Uses in Anatolia’ program (ANR 08-Blanc-0318). In the program, the Asıklı Höyük bracelet is the first object to have been studied among some sixty other polished obsidian artefacts.

In collaboration with the University of Manchester and the British Museum, Laurence Astruc’s team is now analysing ornamental objects found at the Halaf sites of Domuztepe in Eastern Central Anatolia and Arpachiyyah in Iraq.

Source: CNRS press release
More information:
Asıklı Höyük website

Volkan Güngördü , Obsidian, Trade and Society in the Central Anatolian Neolithic, Bilkent University, Ankara (2010)

Astruc L., et al., Multi-scale tribological analysis of the technique of manufacture of an obsidian bracelet from Aşıklı Höyük (Aceramic Neolithic, Central Anatolia), Journal of Archaeological Science 38 (2011): 3415-3424.

Laboratoire de Tribologie et de Dynamiques des Systèmes
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Adam Hawthorne
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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2014, 12:43:09 am »



Asıklı Höyük site
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Adam Hawthorne
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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2014, 12:43:46 am »



Digital reconstruction of the bracelet proposed by Mohamed Ben Tkaya (LTDS)
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Adam Hawthorne
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« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2014, 12:44:33 am »



The obsidian bracelet from Aşıklı Höyük. a. Shape and dimensions, b. Symmetry of the object. © Obsidian Use Project Archives.

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/12/2011/9500-year-old-obsidian-bracelet-shows-exceptional-craft-skills
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