CS4 - Exchange networks dynamics in Near Eastern societies

Exchange networks dynamics in Near Eastern societies.

Case Study 4


Aim. The aim of our research in this case study is to characterize the models of exchange of obsidian and their evolution in time, resorting to mathematical simulation.


Background. In the Near East, obsidian sources are located in Cappadocia and Eastern Anatolia, near the Van Lake. During the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer societies this vitreous rock was transported and used for making tools, spreading it all along the Near East, up to the Jordan Valley, more than 1,000 km away from the outcrops. From 12,000 to 5,000 BC we can observe, intuitively, main changes taking place in the intensity and nature of the networks of transport and exchange of obsidian.


Questions. What are the nature and size of exchange networks among the last hunter-gatherers and first farmers in the Near East? Can we identify the emergence of an exchange network at interregional level? Is the emergence of an exchange network the cause or an effect of the social change process?


Methodology. We gather data of obsidian presence in archaeological sites, taking account of the characteristics of the archaeological sites (location, chronology, size); the presence/absence of obsidian, its quantity, source of origin and type of obsidian remains (cores, bladelets, raw material). Using these data, we check whether the distribution of obsidian in space can be explained mostly or exclusively by the distance to the source of origin. If this is not the case, we simulate different network models of obsidian distribution, modifying the variables of hierarchy and interdependence of the nodes. Finally, we test which network model fits better with the archaeological data. This procedure is applied to the different cultural phases from 12,000 to 5,000 BC.