Michael Brandl (OREA)
Chipped stone tools are amongst the most ubiquitous finds at prehistoric archaeological sites. Therefore, they are best suitable for understanding economic behavior in the past, which involves the procurement, use and distribution of lithic raw materials such as chert and flint (silicites). The results of such studies have far reaching implications, with the potential to reveal circulation networks, intercultural exchange and routes of migration. Successfully reconstructing these processes however crucially depends on the ability to trace these materials back to their original sources.
Despite the obvious importance of chert and flint provenance studies in archaeology, attempts to generate characteristic “fingerprints” of particular silicite raw materials were in most cases unsatisfying. This is mainly due to the oftentimes high similarities of such materials related to similar geological formations, and relying on a limited number of analytical techniques. To remedy this situation, an innovative multi-scalar analytical technique was implemented and successfully applied in various international case studies: The Multi Layered Chert Sourcing Approach (MLA) combines visual grouping, stereo-microscopic analyses and geochemical trace element analyses using LA-ICP-MS (Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry).
Here we demonstrate how the MLA achieves a clear assignment of lithic artefacts to identified geological sources, and the future potential of this method for studying resource management of prehistoric societies.