What is it about?

Obsidian is a volcanic glass that is much prized as a raw material for stone tool making. Many obsidian sources are known in western North America and given their unique chemical signatures, an obsidian artifact can be confidently linked to a particular source. Two flakes of obsidian produced during the resharpening of a stone tool were recovered from a 9,000 year old caribou kill site that is located on land that is now beneath Lake Huron in the Great Lakes. The obsidian flakes are confidently sourced to the Wagontire outcrop in central Oregon, some 4,000 km (2,500 miles) distant from the site.

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Why is it important?

The Lake Huron flakes are the earliest and most easterly occurrence of western obsidian in North America that derive from a securely dated context. The finds show that the small mobile hunting groups that occupied North America at the end of the Ice Age maintained far flung networks of interaction and exchange.


These results highlight the contribution that underwater research can, and will continue to, make to our understanding of ancient North America.

John O'Shea
University of Michigan

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Central Oregon obsidian from a submerged early Holocene archaeological site beneath Lake Huron, PLoS ONE, May 2021, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250840.
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