The traffic of obsidian in North America has been studied mainly from the 50s.
The location of sites with obsidian merges in the range of volcanoes along the west coast of North America , and in the area of intra- plate volcanism including the Snake river plain and the Yellowstone.
Traces of human activity dating back of 15,000 to 16,000 years , and the oldest trade in obsidian of 10,000 years , starting from the Mount Edziza , located in Canada, in the current British Columbia. This volcanic glass was traded from tribe to tribe , against shells, jewelry, turquoise, to Alaska and northern Alberta.
Obsidian knife of Mt Edziza - found in the area of the Stikine river , presumed dated 2,000 years - Royal British Columbia Museum
Many sites with obsidian are found from Oregon to California. It would be tedious to enumerate in detail , some sites being unproductive.
Large flows of obsidian , such as Little Glass Mountain / shield volcano of Medicine Lake in California , Big Obsidian Flow / Newberry Volcano in Oregon, and Obsidian Cliff / Yellowstone Nat . Park in Wyoming, are exceptional.
Distribution of obsidian, with some examples:
From Big Southern Butte ( 294 to 309,000 years ) in the Snake River plain, Shoshone and Bannock tribes , who used obsidian for their arrowheads and spears for about 10,000 years , have traded the glass in Idaho , Montana , Utah, and California .
The obsidian of Obsidian Cliff in Yellowstone National Park, has been used for 12,000 years by Native Americans for the manufacture of weapons and the manufacture of ceremonial objects ; it served as currency of exchange to the Misissipi, to the valley of the Ohio River , and Mexico , reflecting the movement of tribes not only in , but around the Yellowstone in the Paleolithic ( NPS / National Park Service) .
In addition to this main source , various smaller sites met at Yellowstone ( Cougar Creek , Reas Pass , Huckleberry Ridge , Warm Creek , Lava Creek ) and the Grand Teton Park , further south ( Conant Creek , Teton Pass )
In the Cascades range , the caldera of Newberry was frequented by native peoples in the past 10,000 years, contemporary way to Obsidian emissions. Although prior to the Big Obsidian Flow , dated only 1300 years , other obsidian flows were used : South obsidian flow is emitted in the southern caldera here 12,000 years ; Interlake obsidian flow and Gama Hut floware dated about 7300 years, first at the expense of Central Pumice cone between Pumice and East Lake . The rhyolitic East Lake flow were issued from cracks parallel to the inside wall of the caldera, there 3,500 years.
Artifacts from this source have been found in Oregon and Washington state , to British Columbia ( IAOS ) . The abundance of these obsidian really drained as a magnet native peoples to Newberry from their winter camps located along the Deschutes river ... it is no longer the object that moves in this case , but the users .
Obsidian from Oregon - left, Little Glass Butte obsidian / Photo Geochemical research - right, obsidian and cristobalite / Photo Carion minéraux
Obsidian and Apache legend :
Apache tears are small obsidian cores embedded in a matrix of pearlite , white - gray color. This particular structure is set up in a lacustrine environment . They are found in southern Arizona.
" After the Apaches have conducted a series of raids against camps in Arizona , the soldiers assisted by some militia , following the track of stolen cattle and waited for dawn to attack the Apaches .
Apaches feeling safe in their mountain were attacked by surprise and outnumbered . Fifty warriors on seventy five were massacred , and the survivors fled following a cliff ; reached the edge of it , they preferred to throw himself into the void than to die at the hands of white men !
For years, those who ventured into the mountains "Big Pacacho " could see bones and bleached skeletons stuck in the crevices of the cliffs . The mothers, wives and girlfriends of these men settled near cliffs and for a full moon, mourned their dead . Their grief was so great that the Great Spirit turned their tears in transparent black stones , these obsidian which when viewed through light, reveal the purity of women apache tears . "
Many factors have influenced the exchange of obsidian .
Craig Skinner studied the distribution of " archaeological obsidian " and the variables that influenced the course of time . Mainly found :
- Improvement of access roads to the obsidian sources
- Changing modes of transportation , moving from one pedestrian transportation to inland waterways
- Increasing of populations in the intermediate zones
- The local resource depletion
- Increased efficiency of trading systems
- The evolution of the socio- political organization and influence within a group or between groups on the exchange network .
The use of obsidian for the reconstruction of prehistoric contacts and exchange systems is more reliable in terms of stable populations , such as those that existed in Oregon and California. Transhumant groups such existing in the Great Basin of the United States have their exchanges related to their seasonal movements .
- IAOS - International Association for Obsidian Studies - World obsidian sources catalog - link
- Obsidian lab - United States and Canada Obsidian and FGV source maps - link
- Obsidian studies in Oregon - by Graig Skinner
- The obsidian Cliff plateau prehistoric lithic source, Yellowstone Nat.Park. Wyoming