Comparing lower and middle Palaeolithic lithic procurement behaviors within the Hrazdan basin of central Armenia

Ellery Frahm*, Caderyn Owen Jones, Michael Corolla, Keith N. Wilkinson, Jenni E. Sherriff, Boris Gasparyan, Daniel S. Adler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The Hrazdan River valley in Armenia contains Lower, Middle, and Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites and offers access to the Gutansar Volcanic Complex, a large and important source of obsidian. The sites’ occupants primarily acquired lithic material from this obsidian source, which is manifested throughout the local landscape, but its obsidian exposures, produced during a single eruptive phase, exhibit the same geochemical signature. This situation inspired the development of rock magnetic characterization as a means to recognize obsidian from different spots across the volcanic complex (i.e., intra-source, not inter-source, characterization). This intra-source approach was first applied to the Middle Palaeolithic site of Lusakert Cave 1, where the data revealed that the occupants collected obsidian throughout the river valley, rather than a preferred outcrop, quarrying area, or secondary deposit. Such a finding implied that the toolstone procurement spatially coincided with the valley and was embedded in subsistence activities. In this new study, the same approach to intra-source magnetic characterization is applied to the Lower Palaeolithic site of Nor Geghi 1 – specifically, to obsidian debris dated between 440 and 335 millennia ago. The magnetic measurements show that, like at Lusakert Cave 1, toolstone acquisition occurred within the valley. If, as we propose, obsidian procurement reflects the spatial distribution of subsistence activities, it attests that archaic hominins at both sites and in both periods were able to effectively exploit a resource-rich riparian ecosystem. Consequently, this study provides an example of behaviors shared by Middle and Lower Palaeolithic hominins whereby, placed within the same landscape, their resource exploitation behaviors appear indistinguishable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102389
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Armenian highlands
  • Lithic raw material procurement
  • Obsidian sourcing
  • Palaeolithic archaeology
  • Provisioning strategies
  • Rock magnetic characterization


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