Monday, April 23, 2018

Two Islands in the Ocean: Prehistoric Obsidian Exchange between Sakhalin and Hokkaido, Northeast Asia

Yaroslav V. Kuzmin, Michael D. Glascock
Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
Volume 2, 2007, Issue 1
Obsidian exchange patterns were studied on Sakhalin Island which connects Japan with mainland Asia. One hundred-eighty-two specimens of obsidian, including 157 artifacts from 75 sites on Sakhalin, ranging in age from the early Upper Paleolithic (ca. 19,400-17,800 RYBP) to the Okhotsk cultural complex (ca. 1400-800 RYBP), and 25 geological samples from Hokkaido Island (Japan), were examined by neutron activation analysis. Geochemical data suggest that all the obsidian artifacts from known sources found in Sakhalin archaeological sites were brought from Hokkaido sources. Widespread use of Hokkaido obsidian by Sakhalin inhabitants shows that long-distance contacts and exchange have taken place in Northeast Asia since at least the Upper Paleolithic. Although this obsidian transport could have been land-based during the Pleistocene, people had to use watercraft to cross La Pérouse Strait during the past 10,000 years. The distance of raw material transport was about 250-300 km in the early Upper Paleolithic, but increased up to 1000 km by the end of the Upper Paleolithic, the Neolithic, and later periods.

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