Investigating the provenance of obsidian from Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites in Bulgaria
Portable energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) has become a widely used tool for the chemical characterisation (source identification) of obsidian found in archaeological contexts. While laboratory techniques such as neutron activation analysis (NAA) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) can analyse more elements and have lower detection limits, pXRF can provide quantitative data of sufficient resolution to be able to match obsidian artefacts with their volcanic sources. At the same time, pXRF offers several advantages for obsidian research: (i) it can be deployed ‘in the field’ (i.e. on site or in a museum) without the need to bring samples back to a laboratory for analysis; (ii) information on elemental composition can be obtained relatively quickly; and (iii) measurements require no special preparation of samples and cause no visible damage to materials.