By Michael D. Glascock
Chemical analysis is a proven analytical tool for obsidian provenance investigations used by archaeologists around the world. Studies of obsidian artifacts assist archaeologists in tracking human mobility patterns, revealing differential access to raw material sources, investigating prehistoric long-distance exchange, etc. In recent years, hand-held portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometers have become the most popular tool for provenance research on obsidian artifacts. Even so, pXRF can sometimes lead to inconclusive results. In such instances, more powerful analytical methods such as neutron activation analysis (NAA) and laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) can play an important role. This work describes a systematic approach to the analysis and interpretation of geochemical data for obsidian artifacts.