New Insights into the Provenance of the Obsidian Fragments of the Island of Ustica (Palermo, Sicily)

Silvio Giuseppe Rotolo, Di Piazza, Antonio Paonita, Foresta Martin, Franco Foresta Foresta Martin, Rotolo, Carapezza, Sagnotti, D'Oriano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In this study we applied a multidisciplinary approach, coupling geophysical and geochemical measurements, to unveil the provenance of 170 obsidian flakes, collected on the volcanic island of Ustica (Sicily). On this island there are some prehistoric settlements dated from the Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age. Despite not having geological outcrops of obsidian rocks, the countryside of Ustica is rich in fragments of this volcanic glass, imported from other source areas. The study of obsidian findings was carried out first through visual observations and density measurements. At least two different obsidian families have been distinguished, probably imported from Lipari and Pantelleria islands. Analysing the magnetic properties of the samples, these two main sources were confirmed, but the possibility of other provenances was inferred. Finally, we characterized the geochemical signature of the Ustica obsidians by performing microchemical analyses through electron microprobe (EMPA) and laser ablation (LA-ICP-MS). The results were compared with literature data, confirming the presence of the Lipari and Pantelleria sources (Sicily) and indicating for the first time in this part of Italy a third provenance from Palmarola island (Latium). Our results shed new light on the commercial exchanges in the peri-Tyrrhenian area during the prehistoric age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-454
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Archaeology


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