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Transported Obsidian

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  • Transported Obsidian

    Over the years, I have dug up a dozen or so pieces of shiny black glass in Columbia County, Georgia, now known as my “Chicken Coop Site”. Pre-membership, routine was limited to rock identification, so tried to determine if slag or obsidian. Pieces were not found together and not found on surface or in flowing water; none had often tell-tale slag sign of imbedded dirt or debris (which may look kinda like partial cortex, and occurs when factory dumps molten by-product onto ground); none had visible bubbles (teeny tiny or otherwise); all had degree of translucency (brown). ... So, ok, pieces checked out as obsidian according to my little test Qs, and I moved on to other rocks.

    Last week or so, I casually examined a coupla these pieces laying around my room with post-membership eyes. Thot “is this a ‘spall’ (my word of the week)”? Took pic, sent to TomF
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    who confirmed obsidian was indeed modified by Man, and maybe was debitage or even a preform for scraper. This info thrilled me of course (I’m happy with anything artifactual!), but it wasn’t until Tom reviewed obsidian-source considerations that I started 💃🏽, and then felt like 🏇🪂🤸🏽‍♂️!!

    First, the basics: obsidian is an igneous rock, extrusively formed from flowing lava that has cooled too quickly for its silica content to crystallize. Thus, it becomes “glass”, fragile by rock standards; it shatters easily, and its sharp, sharp slivers weather and breakdown relatively quickly, geologically. In geological-time terms, it is a short-lived lithic. These are factual dots of which I was aware, but failed to connect at the time I found my backyard “Georgia” obsidian.

    Around 300 million years ago, the landmass that is now North America collided with Gondwana, a supercontinent now Africa and South America. That clash lifted tons of rock high above the surrounding terrain to form the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains of Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. This means that the obsidian produced by volcanos in what’s now the Southeastern USA has long, long, long, long, long since disintegrated. In fact, no volcanic activity east of the Mississippi is recent enough to have remaining obsidian repositories, even in the most ancient of the People’s times. However, we know that the People discovered the beauty and value of the ultimate “ergonomic” lithic, sought out and found every obsidian repository in our North America, and then traded it extensively. How extensively? Well, the Rockies were formed 85-55 million years ago, when plates began sliding underneath other plates (the “Laramide Orogeny”), and the “new” obsidian produced is lithic of many artifacts. And, the site TomF references, “Glass Mountain”, in California, only about a million years old, a lil’ infant in our geological nursery!

    Connecting these dots means that “my” obsidians are more than just spalls. They are “portafacts”, as Tom says. ( I love syllables, so I’m calling them transportafacts). I always knew Chicken-Coop-site folks made tools, but, Gahw-ley Moses, they made (or were gonna make) tools from MoonRocks (.......or might as well have been!). Think gonna make display just for them....

    Here are the some of the other transportafacts:

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    Last edited by Cecilia; 03-20-2021, 01:40 PM.
    Digging in GA, ‘bout a mile from the Savannah River

  • #2
    We’ll, well, those are very cool, plenty of room for jokes here but way too serious of a discovery for that, , you’ll excuse me please, hafta go look up a few words....Oh did I mention, great post,!


    • Cecilia
      Cecilia commented
      Editing a comment
      You worthy of any jokes about these, as they worthy of any Hal jokes, so bring ‘em!

    • Hal Gorges
      Hal Gorges commented
      Editing a comment
      The jokes were more chicken’s not in my nature to poke fun at artifacts.

  • #3
    very cool finds , i know of some obsidian from the yellowstone region that was traded to different areas east along the missouri river.


    • #4
      Wow Cec that was a great post. I'm impressed! The Obsidian question has long been a topic of discussion as far of it's wide distribution. I got a private post to send you on this topic. I love the Artifacts. Kim PS your were up late weren't you!
      Last edited by Mattern; 03-19-2021, 02:09 PM. Reason: Addition.
      Knowledge is about how and where to learn more Knowledge that you seek. Snyder County Pa.


      • #5
        No points, but I have found pieces of Obsidian here in NW Indiana on property that had mounds ( plowed down to unidentifiable farm land now ) and is adjacent to a protected mound site.
        Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan


        • #6
          Were they found anywhere near etowa? There was obsidian found at town creek in NC... So I wouldn't rule it out!
          North Carolina


          • Cecilia
            Cecilia commented
            Editing a comment
            You know, somewhere back of mind something about N.C.kept rolling around. But can’t remember what I read or where I read it (I hate that!), and I tried to follow up before I posted but didn’t find anything. Any body know about a N.C.- Obsidian story? Cartersville (where Etowah mounds are) coupla hrs/coupla hundred miles northwest of me. I think of it as beginning of “North Georgia Mountains”. Just beautiful. Closer to SurfaceHunter. Hey, SH, you ever find any obsidian?
            Last edited by Cecilia; 03-20-2021, 12:25 AM.

        • #7
          Hey Cecilia, it's really interesting that you've found obsidian (unless it's black flint) . I think it would have been highly valued having been transported so far. Can't see scale for those finds so don't know if those are big enough to work or not. This kind of find makes me think there must be some other cool things buried in your Chicken Coop.

          Here are some other examples of Napa obsidian with cortex. Some comes in rough skinned cobble form and others these faceted lumpy things. These examples have cortex on all surfaces except where strikes have removed spalls. One interesting example is the spike shaped one which shows a useful form straight out of the ground. Another odd one is the little nubby cap-like chunk which I pretty sure is also natural and unworked. Not sure exactly what physics could create the molded effect it displays.

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          • Cecilia
            Cecilia commented
            Editing a comment
            Black Flint?!.....o, my. Must read.....

        • #8
          I have the same problem as Cecilia describes, though maybe my case is worse. I read things, absorb some little factoid and then forget the main bit and also where I read it-...but I think I read that Napa obsidian has been found as far east as Kansas. If true, that's remarkable.
          Not sure if Napa material is extra good or it was just the politics of the day that set the route. If I'm dreaming and it wasn't Kansas, I know for sure it travelled all over California. To the coast, where presumably it was traded for marine products and to the Sierras where, despite the multiple deposits that exist there, Napa sourced obsidian is quite commonly found. I think the key to Napa's reach was political and relied on the convergence of groups around a high quality source that was relatively isolated from other large deposits, but favourably placed in terms of human movement. The North Coast Range separates the vast central valley from the coast. Shells and marine products were very important trade goods that were commonly exploited by inland groups. Annual trips would be made by Wappos and (probably) Patwin into Miwok and Pomo controlled coast areas to collect shells that would be drilled and shaped into beads that were equivalent to money and fish would be smoked or dried and brought home. Most likely obsidian helped facilitate these transactions. Perhaps the people at the southern end of north coast range acted as middlemen funnelling coast products out to the valley and even beyond to the western sierras? From there they could link to Great Basin people and off into the interior.
          Last edited by tomf; 03-19-2021, 11:31 PM.


          • Cecilia
            Cecilia commented
            Editing a comment
            I’ve read from at least two sources (now, what were they...?) that lithics known to have traveled 1000 miles, and even further, from a third source,

        • #9
          Black chert CC like Knox Chert most likely. Some of the black Chert i find is very glossy like obsidian but not a glass. Many different types of black Chert in Georgia. But being in your area it might of still been traded in. Also don't forget slag glass which is made in the past which comes in many colors. Most here is either black or white in color but I've heard of red and green to.
          NW Georgia


          • tomf
            tomf commented
            Editing a comment
            Can't really tell from pics but I had a thought it might be flint or chert. It looks exactly like obsidian though. You'd need to hold it to know. Or see a thin sliver flake.

        • #10
          This spall is a good study. Pretty nice slice to work with. Still lots of work left to reduce it to a point. Surprizingly , or not, the distill end has undergone some exploratory (?) sharpening.

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          Maybe the flake was valuably sharp in it's raw state so was worked that way. Once blunted by use maybe worked into a point? This one has had me guessing ever since I picked it up.


          • Cecilia
            Cecilia commented
            Editing a comment
            Dang, Tom! If that rock were human face, I can see its pores! I wanna take pics like that....
            Last edited by Cecilia; 03-20-2021, 01:35 PM.

        • #11
          Okie Dokie, folks. I was pretty sure none of the pieces I posted was slag, but SH threw me for a short loop with “black flint” (huh?…). I’ve read lotsa books, looked at lotsa pictures, rec’d lotsa artifactual gifts, but have never seen black flint ....I don’t think! Uh-o, what if all the “obsidian” I’ve known and loved over the years was really this “black flint”!?

          Pulled out all my What-Is-This-Rock? books, followed scratch and streak tests. Will walk thru these for those interested. Mohs Scale of Hardness rates:
          *obsidian 5-5.5
          *glass plate 5.5-6
          *steal file 6.5
          *porcelain tile 7
          *quartz (flint/chert) 7
          *slag 7
          Both quartz and chert scratched each of the 6 pieces above, but none of pieces could scratch either the quartz or chert. Only one of the 6 could scratch glass plate. Obsidian streaks white, but my streak plate is white, so used thick brown cardboard; all pieces left white streak except the one that scratched glass (which left no color and just tore thru cardboard).

          So, 5 of the 6 pieces do indeed appear to be obsidian; the odd-man-out is the first guy in 2nd picture line-up. Admittedly, he does look a lil’ different than cousins. I’m still pretty sure he’s not slag, so guess is black flint, tho has bit of white streak inside. I will try take better pic and maybe someone will know (but honestly, the obsidian rules today!)
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          Digging in GA, ‘bout a mile from the Savannah River


          • #12
            Hi Cecilia where you probably read about NC obsidian was from Coe’s book Town Creek Indian Mound. As UF said there was obsidian found there. It was a single point found during an excavation in the plaza area. To my knowledge this is the only documented obsidian artifact ever documented in the state. I’ll include a pic of it thou the pic is not so good. If you google obsidian NC is listed as a source of obsidian not sure about GA. Yes we had obsidian producing volcanos a long long time ago. I believe that the little obsidian that can be found here is not very suitable for knapping and wasn’t utilized. I’m thinking what you have could be a black chert but honestly I think it might be slag glass. Hopefully I’m wrong. I’ve found several chunks that look like your examples. I’ll include a pic of one. I believe I read the obsidian point found in NC was sourced in Wyoming but can’t really remember.
            N.C. from the mountains to the sea


            • Cecilia
              Cecilia commented
              Editing a comment
              Yes, saw N.C. as source, but when tried to find exactly where, hit dead end. (Shoot , I’d take a drive up there if knew where was going!)
              Last edited by Cecilia; 03-20-2021, 08:00 AM.

            • utilized flake
              utilized flake commented
              Editing a comment
              C... Looks like a desert sierra point! Good research sugaree!

          • #13
            Nice C what a stumper!...good post
            SW Connecticut


            • #14
              Don’t know about your area but the Hopewell imported lots of obsidian into this area mostly made into hoes or adzes and traced back to Great Basin. You may be on a Hopewell site they imported grizzly bear claws, copper ,shell beads from both coasts and the Gulf ,obsidian golden eagle feathers, buffalo hide and horns and more


              • Cecilia
                Cecilia commented
                Editing a comment
                Long time ago went to England for a summer, and my luggage didn’t arrive til month after I did. I said to it when finally got there, “where you been!?” I felt the same curiosity and wonderment (minus the frustration) when realized obsidian in backyard had traveled long way to get there! Know geologists can determine volcanic area of origin with right equipment, but so much much easier, faster, not to mention fantastical, if pieces could just talk!!

              • Mugwomp13
                Mugwomp13 commented
                Editing a comment
                Yes that would be great but what language would they speak