It has long been recognized that the use of beads for bodily adornment was a powerful means of creating and expressing social identities. Their symbolic significance and meaning-making lies in the intersection of how and where they are worn, their life histories of production and ownership, the time and skill invested in their manufacture, plus the cosmological import and values accorded their raw materials. While obsidian is known to have traveled to the southern Levant from various Anatolian sources since the Epipalaeolithic period, its use to make beads is rare. Over eight seasons, excavations at Tel Tsaf (ca. 5,200–4,700 cal. BC) in the Jordan Valley, Israel, have produced the richest obsidian bead assemblage in the southern Levant, part of a larger set of objects, and raw materials that attest to this Middle Chalcolithic community’s participation in long-distance exchange networks. This paper details the obsidian bead assemblage, its morphometric and technological characteristics, and raw material sources based on their chemical compositions. It then discusses the assemblage’s broader socio-economic significance, and the possible means through which members of the community came to procure them.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The Tel Tsaf research project is supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF grant 216/17), the Rust Family Foundation, the Irene Levi-Sala CARE Foundation, the Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin, and the Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa. The MAX Lab was established by a Canada Foundation for Innovation Leader’s Opportunity Fund / Ontario Research Fund; the Anatolian source samples’ collection was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – Standard Research Grant (#41020102034).
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.
- Near East
- Obsidian beads
- Tel Tsaf
- Trade and Exchange
ASJC Scopus subject areas