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Title: The obsidian evidence for the scale of social life during the Palaeolithic
Author: Moutsiou, Theodora
ISNI:       0000 0004 2705 5968
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2011
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The social aspect of modern hominin behaviour is a neglected subject within recent Palaeolithic research. This thesis addresses this issue arguing that modern social behaviour is reflected in the hominin ability to create and maintain extended social networks where relatedness is successfully sustained in absentia. Archaeologically, modern social behaviour can be detected through the investigation of raw material movement. This thesis argues that by concentrating on materials that are rare, distinctive and their origins can be securely identified it is possible to reconstruct the dimensions of the exchange networks involved in their circulation. The proposition being tested is that the greater the distances of raw material movement the more advanced the behavioural abilities of the individuals involved in the transfers. Obsidian provides an opportunity to reconstruct the scale of its movement and to use these data to infer the changing scale of social life during the Palaeolithic. Using the distances of obsidian movement a network model is developed and used in the reconstruction of the Palaeolithic social landscape. This research brings together for the first time all the published instances of obsidian use during the Palaeolithic. Obsidian-bearing sites from the Palaeolithic and located in Africa, Europe and the Near East are analysed with the aim of elucidating the evolution of modern social behaviour. GtJi15 (Kenya) and Bodrogkerestúr (Hungary) serve as the case studies for the exploration of the distance effect on technological and typological issues of the obsidian movement. The research demonstrated a strong correlation between obsidian use and long distances. The choice of obsidian makes sense within a system of exchange in which hominins chose to obtain their materials from elsewhere in order to maintain social links with other, more distant, groups. I argue that the scale of obsidian movement, although conditioned by a number of climatic, ecological and anatomical constraints, is actually rooted in social grounds. I thereby reject theories that see behavioural modernity as a recent advance in human history and argue for modern behaviour as gradual process that was initiated in East Africa at least as early as the Middle Stone Age.
Supervisor: Gamble, Clive Sponsor: Humanities Res Coun AHRC ; British Academy United Kingdom
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: obsidian