Neolithic Industry of Long Obsidian Blades: the Case of Aknashen-Khatunarkh (Armenia, Early Sixth Millenium)

  • Jacques Chabot Université Laval
Keywords: lithic technology; chaîne opératoire; technological know-how; Neolithic; obsidian; Caucasus; Northern Mesopotamia


Aknashen (formerly called Khatunarkh) is a small Neolithic village of the Ararat valley located 25 kilometres away from Yerevan (capital of Armenia) and 5 km South-West of Echmiadzin (Vagharshapat). Aknashen is also located at only six kilometres of another Neolithic village which is contemporary: Aratashen, a site for which we recently published a technological study of the obsidian industry. Excavations have been taking place each year since 2004 at Aknashen. Concerning the lithic material, we identified two main chaînes opératoires on obsidian (which is an abundant raw material in this region): one concerns expedient tools made on flakes and the other one relates to long regular blades. This article will concentrate on this long blade industry obtained by three techniques: standing up pressure with a crutch, pressure with a lever and indirect percussion. Otherwise, the link between the application of these techniques and the complete chaîne opératoire of these blades is difficult to figure since elements are missing and we do not know for sure if, for example, the blades knapped by standing up pressure with a crutch were obtained after the progressive reduction of the cores knapped first using indirect percussion and then pressure with a lever. But even if we still don’t understand various elements, such as the exact place (workshop) where knapping activities took place at the site, even if various “debitage” products have been found, at least this constitutes a proof that part of this chaîne opératoire was performed at the site. Furthermore, a systematic study of this material makes it possible to recognize the techniques used, but also to observe the great level of know-how of the specialists who carried out this work. Generally, standing up pressure with a crutch and indirect percussion, are two techniques used in order to obtain long regular blades, and these are better known (documented) than pressure with a lever, even if the latter has been identified in several cultures from the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and sometimes even during Early Bronze Age periods, nonetheless it has been the object of fewer studies of this kind. However, the identification of this high level of skill is important for many reasons, of course first from a pure technological point of view, but the presence of the technique of pressure with a lever on a given site can also constitute an excellent cultural marker in order to characterize cultures that are involved with it and also to help documenting more adequately exchanges (trade networks) that have been made and possible movements or contacts between populations (transmission of knowledge). In this article, a description of diagnostic specimens linked to each technique will be done and this material will be looked from a broader point of view (history of techniques and know-how) in order to have better knowledge of this culture and its possible origins (origin of this Neolithic still not precisely defined). As this research is still relatively new, many aspects are still to be confirmed and this work will carry on in the years to come.

Author Biography

Jacques Chabot, Université Laval

Université Laval
Département des Sciences Historiques
1030 avenue des Sciences-Humaines, Pavillon De Koninck
Québec, Qc, G1V 0A6


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How to Cite
Chabot, J. (2017). Neolithic Industry of Long Obsidian Blades: the Case of Aknashen-Khatunarkh (Armenia, Early Sixth Millenium). Journal of Lithic Studies, 4(2), 163-179.