Obsidian Provenance in Northeast Asia:
Gaining Solid Evidence for Prehistoric Exchange and Migrations
雅罗斯拉夫·库兹明 Yaroslav V. Kuzmin
(俄罗斯科学院西伯利亚分院地质与矿物研究所 Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences)
对无水火山玻璃，也就是黑曜岩材质的人工制品进行科技手段的产源研究始于20世纪60年代的地中海区域（Cann and Renfrew 1964），而后迅速传播到美洲、欧洲、东非、大洋洲、东亚及东南亚。黑曜岩在打片时会形成锋利的边缘，而且其均质的特性便于人们生产出所需要的形状和尺寸的岩器，所以是一种高品质的原材料。众所周知，史前人类经常从很远的地方获取黑曜岩资源。因此，研究确定黑曜岩制品的原产地，对于理解史前人类的交流非常重要。全球科学界越来越认识到加强黑曜岩产源研究的必要性，近期在利帕里岛（Lipari Island，2016年）（位于意大利西西里岛附近的第勒尼安海）和匈牙利东部（2019年）举办了两次国际黑曜岩会议。利帕里岛作为西地中海地区最重要的黑曜岩来源之一而闻名于世。
一些发现了古代黑曜岩制品的地方，直到20世纪90年代才开始进行比较深入的产源研究，包括俄罗斯的远东和东北部，即滨海省（Primorye Province）、阿穆尔河（黑龙江）盆地（the Amur River basin）、库页岛（Sakhalin Island）、千岛群岛（the Kurile Islands）、堪察加半岛（Kamchatka Peninsula）、科累马河（the basins of the Kolyma）和印地吉尔卡河流域（Indigirka rivers）、楚科奇地区（the Chukotka region ）和高纬度北极地区（the High Arctic）。我们的研究小组于1992年开始在这些地区进行研究，与美国、日本和韩国的学者展开了密切合作，最近英国学者也参与进来。
在收到地球化学数据后，我们使用统计方法识别出了具有共性的矿源地样品与考古样品（见Glascock et al. 1998）。因此，我们能够比较肯定的判断古代人类从何处获取黑曜岩资源。截止到2019下半年，我们又分析了来自俄罗斯远东和东北部，以及东北亚周邻地区（朝鲜半岛和中国东北）的约3100个黑曜岩样品。这个数据库是我们阐释整个东北亚地区黑曜岩产源研究的基础。
在俄罗斯远东大陆地区的最南端（滨海省），黑曜岩的主要矿源地是什科托沃高原（the Shkotovo [Basaltic] Plateau，Basaltic意为玄武岩）。高质量的火山玻璃在这里与基岩（玄武岩和安山岩–玄武岩）伴生。在熔融的玄武岩喷发的过程中，滚烫的玄武岩岩浆与相对较冷的地表（可能是固体沉积物也可能是水）接触后形成枕状熔岩。熔岩的快速冷却形成了直径1-5米的球形（“枕头状”）物体，枕头熔岩的表层就由火山玻璃构成。什科托沃高原上的黑曜岩以玻质碎屑岩的形式存在，这种物质是在枕状熔岩的玻璃状外层碎裂时形成的。在阿穆尔河（黑龙江）盆地，滨海省的北方，火山玻璃的主要来源是厄布拉齐高原，类似于什科托沃高原，也是包含在玄武岩碎屑岩中。
在俄罗斯东部最北端，也被称为西伯利亚东北部，黑曜岩的唯一来源是楚科奇地区，位于阿纳德尔河谷（the Anadyr River valley）内的克拉斯诺湖（Lake Krasnoe）岸边。在这里，黑曜岩见于火山岩带流纹岩之中，以砾岩和小卵岩的形态存在于湖的东岸；也许，矿源地现在已经淹没在水下，不潜水是无法到达的。
在西伯利亚东北部（楚科奇和周邻地区），来自克拉斯诺湖的黑曜岩传播到了楚科奇地区以外的地方，一直延伸到科里亚克高地、科累马河和印地吉尔卡河流域、西伯利亚高纬度北极地区和阿拉斯加。在某些情况下，从矿源到消费地点的直线距离超过1000公里。 从该地区获得的最新数据采集自高纬度北极地区（北纬76度）的若霍夫遗址（Zhokhov site），该遗址属于中石器时代，年代约距今8800前。 对14件文物进行的产源研究表明，所有这些人工制品的原料均来自克拉斯诺湖（Pitulko et al. 2019）。 矿源和遗址之间的直线距离约为1500公里； 考虑到人类活动时期北冰洋的海岸线位置，距离可能在2000公里左右。
以若霍夫遗址为例，黑曜岩被用来制造细石叶。尽管在遗址似乎发现有细石叶的加工行为，但并未发现石核。 因此，黑曜岩是以半成品形式（石核和石叶）出现在若霍夫遗址的。在科累马河流域也观察到了类似的模式，那里几乎所有的黑曜岩制品都是石叶、石叶碎片和石片。 因为对于这两个地区而言，黑曜岩都是一种从很远的地方（到传播最后一站的直线距离至少超过约800公里）带来的“外来”原料，所以它们的交换是以预制石核和工具的形式，而不是未加工的形态来进行的。
在此之前，我们缺乏科学的方法来探究古代人类的迁徙和交流。而今，我们已经掌握了东北亚史前人类互动的规模和周期。到目前为止，所有的数据都证实远古时代交换网络的存在可以早到旧石器时代晚期（约距今3.8-2.5万年）。这些信息对于近期把北美最早的先民和日本岛联系起来这一仍有争议的尝试也具有重要意义（见Davis et al. 2019）。
Background, Methods, and Materials
Science-based research on the provenance of artefacts made of waterless volcanic glass, called obsidian, began in the Mediterranean region in the 1960s (CANN AND RENFREW 1964), and quickly spread to the Americas, Europe, East Africa, Oceania, and East and Southeast Asia. Obsidian was a highly desirable lithic raw material because of the sharpness of its edges when chipped from rock; and its homogeneous texture allowed producing tools of the needed shape and size. It is well known that prehistoric people often acquired obsidian from faraway sources. Therefore, the establishment of primary localities for obsidian artefacts is very important for understanding the patterns of ancient interactions and contacts. There is a growing understanding in the global scientific community of the need to intensify obsidian provenance research, and two international obsidian conferences were recently organised on Lipari Island (Tyrrhenian Sea off Sicily, Italy) (2016) and in eastern Hungary (2019). Lipari Island is well known because one of the most important obsidian sources in the western Mediterranean region is located here.
As it turned out, almost every source of obsidian has a unique “geochemical portrait (signature)” (i.e., the content of several chemical elements) which can be determined using a variety of analytical methods. This is why obsidian source studies are very successful by providing unequivocal evidence for the use of specific lithic resources, and this in turn gives first-hand information about the scale and directions of prehistoric exchange / trade.
Some parts of the world, where ancient obsidian artefacts are found, were not well studied for provenance purposes until the 1990s. Such regions include the far eastern and northeastern parts of modern Russia, namely Primorye (Maritime) Province, the Amur River basin, Sakhalin Island, the Kurile Islands, Kamchatka Peninsula, the basins of the Kolyma and Indigirka rivers, the Chukotka region and the High Arctic. Our research group began studies in these territories in 1992, in close collaboration with scholars from USA, Japan, and South Korea, and recently from the UK.
The identification of obsidian sources for archaeological materials has been conducted by comparison of the geochemical composition of obsidians (mainly using the numerous trace elements with very low content) between the primary sources and archaeological assemblages. It is extremely important to obtain and interpret geochemical data with the help of uniform analytical methods and standards. In our case, all measurements for eastern and northeastern Russian obsidians were performed at the Research Reactor Center of the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO, USA), using the same equipment and methodology. This makes it possible to carry out a direct comparison of the results obtained for both primary (“geological”) locales of obsidian and artefacts.
The two main analytical techniques employed for the geochemical analysis of obsidian in eastern Russia by our Russian–US group since 1992 are: 1) Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA); and 2) X-ray Fluorescence (XRF). We initially identified the geochemical groups for a few dozen obsidian artefacts from Primorye Province and the Amur River basin in 1992, using XRF and NAA. Afterwards, all major primary sources of obsidian in these regions were examined by NAA, determining the content of 28 elements with high precision (one part-per-million, or 10-4 %). The works continued on Kamchatka Peninsula since 2005, and in Northeastern Siberia since 2009, using the same approach. Along with source samples, the geochemical composition of ca. 1300 artefacts from all these regions was determined by our group using both XRF and abridged NAA. Today, the geochemical characteristics of all major primary sources of obsidian in eastern Russia are securely established by NAA and XRF techniques. Different analytical methods ¾ Proton-Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE) and Proton-Induced Gamma-ray Emission (PIGME), portable XRF, and a laser ablation version of the Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS) ¾ were used by other research groups.
Upon receiving the geochemical data, common groups for sources and archaeological samples were identified using statistical methods (see GLASCOCK ET AL. 1998). This made it possible to determine with a high degree of reliability from where the ancient people acquired obsidian. As of late 2019, about 3100 obsidian samples from far eastern and northeastern Russia, as well as from adjacent parts of Northeast Asia (Korean Peninsula and Northeast China), were analysed by several researchers. This dataset is the basis for our interpretation of obsidian provenance in the entire region of Northeast Asia.
Results: Major Obsidian Sources in Eastern Russia and Adjacent Regions
In the southernmost part of mainland Russian Far East (Primorye Province), the main primary source of obsidian is the Shkotovo (Basaltic) Plateau. High quality volcanic glass is associated here with basic rocks (basalts and andesite-basalts). During the eruption of molten basalt, pillow lavas were formed at the contact of the hot basalt mass and relatively cold land surface represented by either solid sediments or water. Due to the rapid cooling of the lava, spherical (“pillow-shaped”) bodies with a diameter of 1–5 m were created, and the surface layer of pillow lava consists of volcanic glass. Obsidian on the Shkotovo Plateau is present in the form of hyaloclastites, a material formed during the fragmentation of the glassy outer part of pillow lava blocks. In the Amur River basin, located north of Primorye Province, the primary source of volcanic glass is known from the Obluchie Plateau where it is confined to basaltic hyaloclastites, similar to the Shkotovo Plateau.
The Kamchatka Peninsula in the northern part of mainland Russian Far East is one of the few regions in the world with a high concentration of obsidian sources, along with the Japanese Islands and Mesoamerica. In all these parts of the globe, obsidian is genetically related to the volcanism of the subduction zones. Obsidian sources on Kamchatka are usually lava flows, extrusive (embedded in other rocks) bodies and pyroclastic flows. Due to the logistical difficulties of carrying out fieldwork on Kamchatka (lack of roads and settlements), only 16 primary obsidian sources out of 30 to 40 known locales have been studied so far.
In the northernmost part of eastern Russia, also called Northeastern Siberia, the only source of obsidian is known in the Chukotka region, on the bank of Lake Krasnoe in the Anadyr River valley. Here obsidian is a part of the rhyolites of the volcanic belt, and it exists as pebbles and small boulders on the eastern shore of the lake; perhaps, the primary source is currently located under water and is not accessible without scuba diving.
On Hokkaido Island of Japan, around 17 primary obsidian sources consisting of 17–20 geochemical groups are currently known, and all of them are situated in a volcanic arc setting (subduction zone). Our group conducted analyses of two major obsidian sources, Shirataki and Oketo; and also two other locales, Akaigawa and Tokachi-Mitsumata. On the Korean Peninsula, the primary obsidian source of alkaline composition is situated in the region around the modern Paektusan Volcano. For a long time, our knowledge was based exclusively on archaeological materials, and only a handful of “geological” samples (with unknown exact location) were available to us. All these data testify in favour of a single geochemical group, which reflects the “signature” of one primary source. We are tentatively calling it “Paektusan”, before its exact localisation is securely established.
Discussion: Prehistoric Obsidian Exchange Networks in Northeast Asia
Currently, the existence of several large-scale exchange systems has been established (using obsidian as a commodity) for the Russian Far East and adjacent regions, and for Northeastern Siberia. Obsidian in these regions was most intensively exploited in the Stone Age, the Upper Palaeolithic (ca. 38,000–12,000 years ago) and the Neolithic (ca. 12,000–3000 years ago). In the Bronze and Early Iron ages (ca. 3000–1500 years ago), the value of obsidian as a raw material almost vanished except for Kamchatka and the eastern Siberian Arctic.
In the mainland part of the southern Russian Far East and in adjacent regions, three obsidian exchange networks have been reconstructed, centered around the sources of the Shkotovo and Obluchie plateaus, and the Paektusan Volcano. While obsidian from the Shkotovo Plateau and the Paektusan sources is widely distributed in the region, including Primorye Province, the Korean Peninsula, Northeast China, and the Amur River basin, the Obluchie Plateau supplied only the Amur River basin. The distances from the sources to the utlisation sites in Primorye and the Amur River basin ranges from a few kilometres to 660–700 km in a straight line. The Paektusan obsidian network is even larger, with distances up to 800 km from source to sites. One can now confidently say that obsidian from sources in the Japanese Islands almost never reached the mainland of Northeast Asia, except the lower Amur River basin and the southernmost part of the Korean Peninsula. In the Kamchatka Peninsula of the northern mainland Russian Far East, it is now possible to reconstruct several obsidian exchange networks, with distances from sources to utilisation sites of up to 600–650 km in a straight line.
In insular southern Russian Far East ¾ Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands ¾ the main obsidian sources were the Shirataki and Oketo locales on Hokkaido Island. Obsidian from the Shirataki source was also detected in the mainland (lower reaches of the Amur River), and it was brought there ca. 8000 years ago. The distance from the Hokkaido sources to the utilisation sites in some cases exceeds 1000 km in a straight line. For the Kurile Islands, the use of obsidian from several Kamchatkan sources has been established, with distances of up to 1400–1500 km as the crow flies.
In Northeastern Siberia (Chukotka and adjacent areas), obsidian from the Lake Krasnoe source spread far beyond Chukotka – to the Koryak Upland, the basins of the Kolyma and Indigirka rivers, the Siberian High Arctic and Alaska. The distance from the source to the utilisation sites in some cases exceeds 1000 km in a straight line. The latest data from this region were obtained for the Zhokhov site in the High Arctic (76° N latitude), which belongs to the Mesolithic, dated to ca. 8800 years ago. Provenance study of 14 artefacts shows that the raw material of all of them originated from the Lake Krasnoe source (PITULKO ET AL. 2019). The straight distance between site and the source is ca. 1500 km; considering the coastline of the Arctic Ocean at the time of human occupation, it would be ca. 2000 km.
In studies of the acquisition and use of archaeological obsidian worldwide, one the most important topics is the mechanism for acquiring raw material from remote sources. In the southern Russian Far East, the travel distance of obsidian pebbles transported by rivers is up to 30–50 km downstream from the source. Because today the presence of the long-distance movement of obsidian by prehistoric people, which greatly exceeds the range of obsidian transport by natural agents, is well established for eastern and northeastern Russia, the issues related to exchange of this high-quality raw material are of great significance. Studies done in the Mediterranean and the Near East in the 1960s (RENFREW 1975) allowed the creation of the concept of prehistoric trade / exchange. The main components of this concept are: 1) a supply zone, with a radius of up to 300 km from the centre where the utilisation site is located, with the share of obsidian in the composition of the raw materials up to 80%; and 2) a contact zone beyond the supply zone, inhabitants of which could not easily visit the sources of obsidian due to the large distance, and they exchanged (traded) obsidian with people of the supply zone; the share of obsidian ranges from 30–40% to 0.1%.
In many cases for eastern Russia and neighbouring regions of Northeast Asia, the archaeological obsidians are separated from the primary sources by distances greater than ca. 300 km, well beyond the contact zone. This is evidence of well-developed exchange / trade networks, especially in Northeastern Siberia where the raw material from an obsidian source of Lake Krasnoe was spread over an enormously large area, with distances between end points of up to ca. 2000–2250 km. It would be impossible to maintain the acquisition of obsidian from so remote a source without primitive trade and/or exchange.
Using the Zhokhov site as a case study, one can conclude that obsidian was used for making microblades. No obsidian cores were found, although it seems that microblade manufacture occurred at the site. Therefore, obsidian appeared at the Zhokhov site in a semi-ready form (cores and blades); a similar pattern is observed in the Kolyma River basin where almost all obsidian artefacts are blades, blade fragments and flakes. Because for both regions obsidian as an “exotic” raw material was brought from far away (at least ca. 800 km in a straight line on the last leg of travel), the exchange of it was carried out as ready cores and tools rather than un-worked pieces.
The obsidian exchange networks of the Kurile Islands testify to the super-long transport of raw materials, and the existence of them would be impossible without the use of watercraft in this part of Northeast Asia from ca. 10,000 years ago onwards. In other regions of Northeast Asia, the movement of obsidian from primary sources with the help of some kind of seagoing transport is now known even earlier: at ca. 38,000 years ago on Honshu Island of Japan, and at ca. 28,000–30,000 years ago in southernmost Korea. As for the former, the source is situated on the small islet of Kozu-jima ca. 50 km off the shore of central part of Honshu Island. As for the latter, the main supplier was the Koshidake source in northern Kyushu Island.
The provenance of obsidian from the Zhokhov site along with some other archaeological localities in Northeastern Siberia, especially in the Kolyma River basin, is further evidence of super-long-distance transport of raw material. It also shows that the size of the human interaction sphere in the Mesolithic of the Siberian Arctic was very large, up to ca. 4,000,000 km2.
Over the course of the last 25–30 years, significant progress has been achieved in obsidian provenance research in eastern Russia. The main networks of prehistoric exchange / trade of obsidian were reconstructed in both continental and insular parts of the southern Russian Far East and neighbouring regions – Japanese Islands, Korean Peninsula, and Northeast China. More work is underway in the northern part of the Russian Far East (Kamchatka Peninsula) and in Northeastern Siberia.
Today, we have secure information about the size and timing of prehistoric human interactions in Northeast Asia; this kind of knowledge did not exist previously because of the absence of science-based methods to investigate movements and contact of ancient populations. All available data so far provide evidence about the existence of exchange networks in deep antiquity, since the Upper Palaeolithic (ca. 38,000–25,000 years ago). This information is also important in the light of a recent controversial attempt to connect the origin of the earliest inhabitants of North America to the Japanese Islands (see DAVIS ET AL. 2019).
It should be highlighted that only geoarchaeological studies of obsidian raw material are able to provide solid evidence of large-scale interaction and movements of people in prehistoric Northeast Asia. Archaeological approaches, based primarily on the typology of lithic artefacts and pottery, cannot give us unequivocal information about these issues. Therefore, obsidian provenance research in eastern Russia and around it is a good example of a “success story” (sensu WILLIAMS-THORPE 1995).
Yaroslav V. Kuzmin (Ph.D. 1991; D.Sc. 2007) is a Leading Researcher at the Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk (Russia); he is also affiliated with the Laboratory of Mesozoic and Cenozoic Continental Ecosystems, at Tomsk State University, Tomsk (Russia). His major research field since 1979 is geoarchaeology – the application of the natural sciences (geology, geography, biology, etc.) to archaeology. Provenance studies of archaeological obsidian in the Russian Far East, Northeastern Siberia and the neighbouring regions of Northeast Asia (Japan, Korea, and Northeast China) has been one of his main activities for more than 25 years, conducted in close cooperation with colleagues from Russia, USA, Japan, South Korea, and UK. He has lectured at several universities in North America, Asia and Europe, with longer stays at the University of Arizona and the University of Missouri – Columbia (both in the USA). He has received several research fellowships from different agencies, including Fulbright Program, CRDF and IREX (USA); The Japan Foundation, Japan Society for Promotion of Science (Japan); and Korea Foundation (South Korea). Yaroslav V. Kuzmin is the author of three books and 14 volumes and special issues of journals edited by him along with other scholars; he has also published more than 200 papers in international peer-reviewed journals. He is an Associate Editor of the journal Radiocarbon (currently published by Cambridge University Press). He received the Scopus Award 2015 Russia for the best record of publications in the field of Earth sciences in Russia (2010–2014).