Assessing the viability of portable Raman spectroscopy for determining the geological source of obsidian
Recent studies have highlighted the long-distance transport of obsidian from the Paektusan (Tianchi or Baitoushan in Chinese) volcano on the border between China and North Korea to eastern Russia and Korea, but little is known about the role of the local population in the production and movement or exchange of this important raw material. This paper addresses this data lacuna by presenting sourcing results of 440 artifacts from 18 Late Paleolithic sites located in northeast China. A portable XRF enabled rapid non-destructive characterization of samples. The results show that although Paektusan obsidian was widely transported throughout northeast Asia, material from at least three other sources was also used. In particular, we highlight the significance of basaltic glass artifacts with the same geochemistry as sources found in the Primorye region of Far East Russia in sites from northeast China. This result indicates a two-way movement of volcanic glass artifacts between Primorye and the northeast of China rather than a unidirectional long-distance exchange system originating from Paektusan Volcano.
Keywords: Volcanic glass; PXRF chararcterisation; Paektusan; Northeast China; Far East Russia