Possible obsidian sources for artifacts from Timor: narrowing the options using chemical data

Ambrose, Wal, Allen, Chalotte, O'Connor, Sue, Spriggs, Matthew, Oliveira, Nuno Vasco, and Reepmeyer, Christian (2009) Possible obsidian sources for artifacts from Timor: narrowing the options using chemical data. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36. pp. 607-615.

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Measurements made at the Australian National University using laser ablation ICPMS show that none of the 88 analyzed obsidian artifacts from East Timor match either the known Papua New Guinea or the five Island SE Asian source samples in our ANU collections. There is a coastal journey of more than 3000 km between the occurrence of obsidians from the Bismarck Archipelago volcanic province of Papua New Guinea and the Sunda-Banda Arc volcanic chain, yet obsidian artifacts from the two important PNG sources of Talasea and Lou Island are found at coastal Bukit Tengkorak in eastern Sabah at a similar distance along with material that has no known source. Timor lies south of the eastern section of the active volcanic Banda Arc island chain but it is within range of possible rhyolite sources from there. Although there is a continuous chain of around 60 active volcanoes stretching from west Sumatra to the Moluccas most are basaltic to andesitic with few areas likely to produce high silica dacite–rhyolite deposits. This does not exclude the possibility that the volcanic landscapes may contain obsidian, but without detailed survey and chemical analysis of sources from the Sunda-Banda Arc the attribution of the Timor obsidian artifacts remains to be demonstrated. Timor may seem to be an unlikely source for the presence of obsidians as it lacks reports of the silica-rich rhyolite volcanic centers necessary to produce this material. Despite the absence of detailed survey and analysis of Indonesian obsidian sources, especially from the volcanically active Banda Arc, this paper presents evidence that one of two obsidian sources is clearly from Timor while the other, with less certainty, is also from an unknown local source.

Item ID: 39058
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-9238
Keywords: Timor, natural glasses; obsidian artifacts; chemical analysis
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2015 03:18
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210102 Archaeological Science @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210103 Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950502 Understanding Asias Past @ 100%
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