This obsidian macroblade core is from the salt mine of Duzdağı, near the city of Nakhchivan in Azerbaijan. The core dates to the Chalcolithic period, ca. 4000-6500 BP, and is made of obsidian from the Syunik source in the Zangezor range of Armenia.
The obsidian core in this model is from the Duzdağı site and dates to the intensive mining period during the Chalcolithic period. Relatively large obsidian macroblades were struck from the core by hard-hammer percussion. The core blank was a nodule of obsidian, and the macroblades were struck unidirectionally from a cortical platform. Blades removals were carefully spaced, with the blades running through the base of the core. An excellent platform was established on the core face for making a macroblade with a trapezoidal cross section, but the core was abandoned before striking this flake.
The geological provenance of the obsidian was determined by SCOPE project research conducted at the University of New England, Australia, by Dr M. Orange. The surveys at Duzdağı were conducted by the Mission Archéologique du Bassin de l’Araxe (Director, Dr. C. Marro, Archéorient) and the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Nakhchivan Branch (Dr V. Bakhshaliyev). Artefact number SCOPE-00682.
For thousands of years salt was an essential economic and symbolic product, partly because of its ability to preserve food. Food preservation eased seasonal dependencies and allowed food to be transported and traded over long distances. The mineral halite (rock salt) is an evaporite mineral that occurs in thick beds that can be mined in a similar way to rock. A vast infrastructure of salt mines linked by established roads had developed by Roman times to facilitate the salt trade. The word ‘salary’ derives from the Latin word for salt, perhaps because Roman soldiers were given an allowance to purchase the mineral.
Archaeological research in 2008-2009 focused on the Duzdağı salt dome in Azerbaijan, located on the Medieval Silk Road linking the city of Tabriz in northwest Iran with Constantinople in Turkey. The salt deposit there is about 7 km from the city of Nakhchivan, covering about 6 square kilometres and measuring 150 m thick. Abundant archaeological materials are found in the area, consisting of dense scatters of pottery and domestic stone tools, along with pecked and grooved stone salt mining hammers weighing from 1-30 kg. Typological studies of the pottery and tools suggest that mining began ca. 6500 BP, which is among the earliest evidence for rock-salt mining in the world. This is at the start of the Chalcolithic period when societies throughout the Caucasus were experiencing profound economic, social, and technological changes, reflected in part by the arrival of copper tools. Intensive salt mining was underway by about 5000 BP.