Faculty Publications

“Lithic raw material units based on magnetic properties: A blind test with Armenian obsidian and application to the Middle Paleolithic site of Lusakert Cave 1”
Journal of Archaeological Science (2016)

Authors: Ellery Frahm, Joshua M. Feinberg, Beverly A. Schmidt-Magee, Keith N. Wilkinson, Boris Gasparyan, Benik Yeritsyan, Daniel S. Adler
Abstract: Classification of lithic artifacts’ raw materials based on macroscopic attributes (e.g., color, luster, texture) has been used to pull apart knapping episodes in palimpsest assemblages by attempting to identify artifacts produced through the reduction of an individual nodule. These classes are termed “raw material units” (RMUs) in the Old World and “minimum analytical nodules” in the New World. RMUs are most readily defined for lithic artifacts in areas with distinctive cherts and other siliceous raw materials, allowing pieces from different nodules to be recognized visually. Opportunities to apply RMUs, however, are strongly limited at sites where lithic material visual diversity is low. The magnetic properties of obsidian, which result from the presence of microscopic iron oxide mineral grains, vary spatially throughout a flow. Consequently, obsidian from different portions of a source (i.e., different outcrops or quarries) can vary in magnetic properties. This raises the possibility that magnetic-based RMUs (mRMUs) for obsidian artifacts could be effective to distinguish individual scatters from multiple production episodes and offer insights into spatial patterning within a site or specific occupation periods. First, we assess the potential of mRMUs using obsidian pebbles from Gutansar volcano in Armenia. Second, we evaluate the validity of this approach based on a double-blind test involving an experimental assemblage of Gutansar obsidian flakes. Cluster analysis can successfully discern flakes from obsidian specimens containing high concentrations of iron oxides. Obsidian with more magnetic material has more opportunities for that material to vary in unique ways (e.g., grain size, morphology, physical arrangement). Finally, we apply the mRMU approach to obsidian artifacts from the Middle Palaeolithic site of Lusakert Cave 1 in Armenia and compare the results to traditional RMU studies at contemporaneous sites in Europe. In particular, we seek e but do not find differences between retouch flakes (which reflect rejuvenation of tools) and the other small debris (which reflect other reduction activities). This result likely reflects the local landscape, specifically the abundance of obsidian and, thus, little pressure to curate and retouch tools. As this approach is applied to additional sites, such findings will play a central role in regional assessments about the nature and timing of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic “transition” and the relationship, or lack thereof, between technological behaviors and presumed population dynamics.
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“Middle Palaeolithic toolstone procurement behaviors at Lusakert Cave 1, Hrazdan valley, Armenia”
Journal of Human Evolution 91 (2016)

Authors: Ellery Frahm, Joshua M. Feinberg, Beverly A. Schmidt-Magee, Keith N. Wilkinson, Boris Gasparyan, Benik Yeritsyan, Daniel S. Adler
Abstract: Strategies employed by Middle Palaeolithic hominins to acquire lithic raw materials often play key roles in assessing their movements through the landscape, relationships with neighboring groups, and cognitive abilities. It has been argued that a dependence on local resources is a widespread characteristic of the Middle Palaeolithic, but how such behaviors were manifested on the landscape remains unclear. Does an abundance of local toolstone reflect frequent encounters with different outcrops while foraging, or was a particular outcrop favored and preferentially quarried? This study examines such behaviors at a finer geospatial scale than is usually possible, allowing us to investigate hominin movements through the landscape surrounding Lusakert Cave 1 in Armenia. Using our newly developed approach to obsidian magnetic characterization, we test a series of hypotheses regarding the locations where hominins pro- cured toolstone from a volcanic complex adjacent to the site. Our goal is to establish whether the cave’s occupants procured local obsidian from preferred outcrops or quarries, secondary deposits of obsidian nodules along a river, or a variety of exposures as encountered while moving through the river valley or across the wider volcanic landscape during the course of foraging activities. As we demonstrate here, it is not the case that one particular outcrop or deposit attracted the cave occupants during the studied time intervals. Nor did they acquire obsidian at random across the landscape. Instead, our analyses support the hypothesis that these hominins collected obsidian from outcrops and exposures throughout the adjacent river valley, reflecting the spatial scale of their day-to-day foraging activities. The coincidence of such behaviors within the resource-rich river valley suggests efficient exploitation of a diverse biome during a time interval immediately preceding the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic “transition,” the nature and timing of which has yet to be determined for the region.
Note: Officially updated at the beginning of 2016, this journal acknowledges various funding provided by Norian and Dr. Dan Adler’s Education Abroad field school over the years. This article recognizes the financial support by the Norian Armenian Programs committee. 
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Scholarly output resulting from Norian-funded projects conducted in Armenia by UConn’s Anthropology Department and international collaborators, 2008–present

Submitted by: Daniel S. Adler
Date Submitted: May 5, 2014
Location: Norian Armenian Studies Committee Meeting
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“Stone Age of Armenia”
A Guidebook to the Stone Age Archaeology in the Republic of Armenia

Monograph of the JSPS-Bilateral Joint Research Project
Authors: Daniel S. Adler, Levon Aghikyan, Gregory E. Areshian, Makoto Arimura, Pavel Avetisyan, Karen Azatyan, Ruben Badalyan, Tamara Bagoyan, Arsen Bobokhyan, Christine Chataigner, Charles P. Egeland, Sumio Fujii, Ivan, Gabrielyan, Boris Gasparyan, Phil Glauberman, Armine Harutyunyan, Hayk Haydosyan, Armine Hayrapetyan, Andrew W. Kandel, Anna Khechoyan, Lusine Margaryan, Kristine Martirosyan-Olshansky, Khachatur Meliksetian, Cyril Montoya, Firdus Muradyan, Samvel Nahapetyan, Ernst Pernicka, Ron Pinhasi, Arthur Petrosyan, Alexia Smith, Lyssa C. Stapleton, Diana Zardaryan
Editors: Boris Gasparyan, Makoto Arimura
Publication by: Center for Cultural Research Studies, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa, Japan. 2014
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