High resolution elemental characterization of prehistoric flint sources in southern Israel: Implications for archaeological provenance studies

Meir Finkel, Yigal Erel, Yoav Ben Dor, Ofir Tirosh, Thomas E. Levy, Mohammad Najjar, Yoav Avni, Avi Gopher, Erez Ben-Yosef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Identifying the geological sources of archaeological flint is crucial to various studies in prehistoric research. Here we present a study of flint sources in southern Israel using elemental analysis. Six Neolithic quarries and three geological outcrops of several geological formations were sampled and analyzed by ICP-MS in order to investigate whether differences in trace element concentrations can be used to distinguish between flint sources. Using (1) patterns of chondrite-normalized rare earth elements (REE), and (2) new advanced statistical methods utilizing the concentrations of REE and 25 additional elements, we were able to clearly differentiate between Upper Cretaceous and Eocene flints, and in certain cases also between flint sources of different ages within the Upper Cretaceous across the southern Levantine landscape. In addition, we used the newly established elemental database and the methods developed in this research as a pilot study towards establishing a regional dataset and locating target sites for flint exploited in those sources. This concept is evaluated by investigating the elemental analyses of flint artifacts from the Neolithic settlement which is nearest to the quarries and outcrops in the eastern part of our research area – the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic settlement in the Wadi Faynan region (Jordan). The current results indicate that the flint from the studied quarrying sites in the eastern Negev was probably not exploited by the inhabitants of Wadi Faynan during the Neolithic, but suggest that multiple sources were used. This highlights the need to expand the database by analyzing additional flint from other potential sources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103438
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume43
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Flint provenance
  • Negev Desert
  • Neolithic
  • Prehistoric quarries
  • Wadi Faynan

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