African Archaeological Review

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 129–152 | Cite as

Obsidian sources and patterns of source utilization in Kenya and northern Tanzania: some initial findings

  • Harry V. Merrick
  • Francis H. Brown


A pilot study of Kenyan and northern Tanzanian obsidian sources and artifacts has been undertaken to characterize sources and artifacts in order to examine prehistoric patterns of source utilization and to investigate the long distance movement of obsidian in the region. A survey for source localities has revealed 54 localities to date. XRF analyses for 12 elements have been undertaken on samples from each locality and a number of chemically distinct source areas have been recognized. Some 1400 artifacts from 32 sites were chemically characterized and assigned to sources based on the analysis of three elements by an electron microprobe. The study documents long distant movement of central Rift obsidians from MSA times onward, and demonstrates that with the advent of the Pastoral Neolithic there is wider use of obsidian and more specialized reliance on individual sources.


Pilot Study Source Locality Source Area Electron Microprobe Cultural Study 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Une étude pilote a été enterprise afin de caractériser des sources et des outils en obsidienne trouvés au Kenya et en Tanzanie du nord. Cette étude est dans le but d'approfondir nos connaissances des modèles préhistoriques de l'utilisation des sources et du transport à longue distance de l'obsidienne. Jusqu'à maintenant la reconnaissance nous a permis de localiser 54 sources. Les analyses par la méthode de fluorescence des rayons X de douze éléments ont été menées sur des échantillons provenant de chaque source et un certain nombre d'entre elles ont été reconnues comme étant chimiquement distinctes. Quelques 1400 outils provenant de 32 gisements ont été caractérisés en utilisant la microsonde électronique et attribués à certaines sources grâce à trois éléments. De plus cette étude documente le transport à longue distance des obsidiennes du Rift central depuis de Middle Stone Age. Enfin avec la venue du Néolithique pastoral nous retrouvons une plus grande utilisation de l'obsidienne et une dépendance spécialisée sur des sources particulières.


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Copyright information

© Cambridge University Press 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harry V. Merrick
  • Francis H. Brown

There are no affiliations available

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