Kythera Island Project
Specific Stone Artefacts:
Chipped Stone
Ground Stone

Chipped Stone

Principal Investigator:
Tristan Carter (Stanford)

Obsidian blades and other chipped stone from Site 004
Obsidian and other chipped stone from Site 004. Photography by C. Broodbank 2001.

Study of the chipped stone commenced in 2002 with a concentration on tract material, and was completed in 2003 with the analysis of material from the sites. It involved the individual study of each blank, detailing raw material, state, technological and typological information, metrical data, use-wear and surface condition, as well as the illustration of ca. 300 pieces. Some 4977 pieces of chipped stone were recovered by KIP, of which 322 (6.5%) came from tract-walking and 4655 (93.5%) from site collection, almost half (47%) of the latter coming from one rich, long-lived coastal focus of activity (Site 146) close to Kastri. Overall, the most frequently encountered materials are chert and white quartzite (both probably local to Kythera), followed by obsidian (20% of the total material, although a much higher percentage of the tract finds, and presumed to be largely, if not entirely, of Melian provenance). There is also a range of rarer local and/or imported materials.

In terms of chronological spread, a few pieces may be Middle Neolithic in date, but at present the earliest secure diagnostics are several Late Neolithic projectile points, mostly in obsidian. These points aside, however, the vast majority of the early chipped stone seems to attest to a non-obsidian, chert- and quartzite-based industry of marked irregularity and few formal implements. The total chipped stone sample is dominated by the huge amounts of such low-visibility pieces from a handful of sites, notably 146 (where obsidian comprises a mere 2%) and a few smaller comparanda. Obsidian becomes more prominent in relative terms in the Early Bronze Age (and probably during the Final Neolithic), when a pressure-flaked obsidian blade industry and its debris comprises the majority of material found on sites. The presence of core fragments demonstrates that at least some of the obsidian artefacts were manufactured on Kythera, with a notable concentration at the coastal access points of Kastri and Diakofti. In addition to consumption at settlement sites, some unusually long obsidian blades were also used as funerary goods, at least by the late Early Bronze Age First Minoanising period. This practice finds close parallels in Crete. Use of chipped stone drops off dramatically after the end of the EBA, with only a very small-scale industry based on local cherts and quartzite being occasionally found, for example, on Second Palace farmsteads.

Analysis of the chipped stone data will enable KIP to refine the dating of the earliest attested activity on the island, the period at which Kythera gained access to the inter-regional routes along which obsidian circulated, and the processes behind the emergence of coastal communities at the interface between islanders and the outside world.

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