Ellery Frahm

Ellery Frahm
Yale University | YU · Department of Anthropology

Ph.D. in Anthropology
Research Scientist, Yale • Director, Yale Initiative for the Study of Ancient Pyrotechnology • www.elleryfrahm.com

About

72
Publications
24,590
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Introduction
Research Scientist (Faculty) & Lecturer, Department of Anthropology & Council on Archaeological Studies, Yale University • Director, Yale Initiative for the Study of Ancient Pyrotechnology • Curatorial Affiliate, Peabody Museum of Natural History • Co-Editor-in-Chief, “Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports" • www.elleryfrahm.com
Additional affiliations
January 2017 - present
Yale University
Position
  • Managing Director
August 2016 - December 2016
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Position
  • Visiting Assistant Professor
January 2014 - August 2016
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Position
  • Research Associate

Publications

Publications (72)
Article
The Early to Middle Bronze Age transition in Northern Mesopotamia has received great attention for the apparent concurrence of aridification, deurbanisation, and the end of the Akkadian empire around 2200 BCE. Our understanding of the “crisis” has been almost exclusively shaped by ceramics, demography, and subsistence. Exchange and the associated s...
Article
Full-text available
The Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition (~400,000 to 200,000 years ago) is marked by technical, behavioral, and anatomical changes among hominin populations throughout Africa and Eurasia. The replacement of bifacial stone tools, such as handaxes, by tools made on flakes detached from Levallois cores documents the most important conceptual shift...
Article
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Contact across long distances is evident in the Neolithic of the Near East, whether driven by social networks, exchange links, or movement of individuals or populations. Movement of material, such as obsidian, can elucidate these processes but is often studied within a bounded world that places Mesopotamia at the center. This paper focuses on links...
Article
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A series of well-characterized specimens, known as the Peabody-Yale Reference Obsidians (PYRO) sets, has been designed to aid with calibrating and assessing X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF) data, including portable XRF (pXRF) measurements, for obsidian sourcing. Each of these ten matched sets consists of 35 specimens: 20 specimens for calibration...
Article
Full-text available
Archaeologists' access to analytical infrastructure has grown exponentially over the last two decades. This is especially the case for benchtop X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and portable XRF (pXRF) instruments, which are now practically commonplace in archaeological laboratories and provide users with a non-destructive and rapid means to analyze the ele...
Article
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Here we introduce a set of well-characterized historical brick and geological specimens intended to aid the calibration of portable XRF (pXRF) instruments for archaeological ceramics. Known as the BRICC (Bricks and Rocks for Instruments’ Ceramic Calibration) sets, each of the ten matched sets consists of 20 specimens mounted in epoxy discs: 12 bric...
Article
Full-text available
Investigations of organic lithic micro-residues have, over the last decade, shifted from entirely morphological observations using visible-light microscopy to compositional ones using scanning electron microscopy and Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy, providing a seemingly objective chemical basis for residue identifications. Contaminati...
Article
Full-text available
Hatis-1 is a Lower Paleolithic open-air site on the Hrazdan-Kotayk Plateau of central Armenia. Although the site was tested in the 1980s, little has been published regarding the material. Consequently, we reinvestigated the site by expanding the original test pit to better understand the stratigraphy and recover a new sample of artifacts. As a resu...
Article
Full-text available
Obsidian sourcing in the Near East was principally developed to investigate the Neolithic Revolution, but limitations of these early studies were soon recognized. Critics noted that sites included in the models span millennia and vary in size and function. Greater insight is offered by a more contextualized examination of the nature and timing of s...
Article
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Most descriptions of obsidian-bearing rhyolitic lava flows and domes are largely based on relatively simple cases of tectonic plate subduction in North America, but Armenian geologists proposed since the 1960s that these models are less suitable for describing rhyolitic volcanism in their research area. Obsidian-producing volcanoes that lie in the...
Poster
Full-text available
In Armenia, the increasing number of excavated and chronometrically dated Middle Paleolithic (MP) localities is broadening our view of Late Pleistocene hunter-gatherer settlement dynamics (Marine Isotope Stage [MIS] 3; ~ 60 – 30 ka). This poster summarizes results of ongoing research at several MP sites in a range of contexts to assess variability...
Article
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The Armenian highlands encompasses rugged and environmentally diverse landscapes and is characterized by a mosaic of distinct ecological niches and large temperature gradients. Strong seasonal fluctuations in resource availability along topographic gradients likely prompted Pleistocene hominin groups to adapt by adjusting their mobility strategies....
Article
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Barozh 12 is a late Middle Paleolithic open-air locality in western Armenia dating from 60,000 to 31,000 years ago. Stratified deposits with high densities of obsidian artifacts permit the analysis of diachronic trends in manufacture, reduction, discard, and toolstone provisioning as related to technological organization in the context of hunter-ga...
Poster
Full-text available
Following the discovery of the H. erectus fossils and stone tools dating to 1.85–1.78 Ma at the site of Dmanisi in Georgia [1], recent field research in neighboring Armenia has focused on documenting Lower Paleolithic (LP) sites that may provide insight into the behavior of the first hominins to occupy Eurasia. The few LP sites under study in Armen...
Article
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Here we report the findings from excavations at the open-air Middle Palaeolithic site of Alapars-1 in central Armenia. Three stratified Palaeolithic artefact assemblages were found within a 6-m-thick alluvial-aeolian sequence, located on the flanks of an obsidian-bearing lava dome. Combined sedimentological and chronological analyses reveal three p...
Article
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Nemrut Dağ volcano was a highly important obsidian source in the ancient Near East for millennia, and its circular caldera is a conspicuous landmark on the landscape. In contrast to its archaeological relevance as an obsidian source, Nemrut Dağ was poorly understood for decades, starting with the work of Renfrew and col- leagues. Fortunately, in th...
Article
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The Hrazdan River valley in Armenia contains Lower, Middle, and Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites and offers access to the Gutansar Volcanic Complex, a large and important source of obsidian. The sites' occupants primarily acquired lithic material from this obsidian source, which is manifested throughout the local landscape, but its obsidian e...
Article
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Excavations at Aghitu-3 Cave in Armenia revealed stratified Upper Palaeolithic archaeological horizons (AHs), spanning from 39 to 36,000 cal BP (AH VII) to 29–24,000 cal BP (AH III) and from which we identified the sources of 1120 obsidian artifacts. Not only does AH III—deposited at the onset of the Last Glacial Maximum—have the most artifacts fro...
Article
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Given the importance of the Levant in understanding the origins and dispersals of modern humans, there has been great interest in archaeological evidence to support population movements between the Levant and ad- jacent regions. The link, if any, between the Aurignacian tradition across Europe and the “Levantine Aurignacian” is a particular focus....
Chapter
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It has long been debated whether the Hurrians, who inhabited the zone between the Anatolian highlands and Mesopotamian lowlands, were immigrants from the northeast or indigenous to the region. I consider the implications of new obsidian studies on the issue of social networks that linked Mesopotamian settlements to the Caucasus.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Along with a few more Levantine sites having long Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) sequences, Yabrud II rock-shelter in Syria received many controversial industrial-chronological interpretations. Matching together our new site’s archaeological interpretations and data on the site’s single obsidian artifact found at layer 4, the following observations...
Conference Paper
Along with a few more Levantine sites having long Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) sequences, Yabrud II rock-shelter in Syria received many controversial industrial-chronological interpretations. Matching together our new site’s archaeological interpretations and data on the site’s single obsidian artifact found at layer 4, the following observations...
Article
Full-text available
The corpus of sourced obsidian glyptic objects, like inscribed amulets and cylinder seals, is virtually nonexistent across the Near East. Here we report our findings for two obsidian amulets and two cylinder seals in the Yale Babylonian Collection and Metropolitan Museum of Art. We analyzed the artifacts using portable X-ray fluorescence, which is...
Article
The Hellenistic, Parthian, and Roman site of Dura–Europos (or simply “Dura”), dubbed the “Pompeii of the Syrian Desert” by Yale historian and archaeologist Michael Rostovtzeff, was jointly excavated by Yale University and the French Academy of Inscriptions and Letters from 1928 to 1937. Given the outstanding preservation of art and architecture at...
Article
Ninety years ago in the Zagros foothills of Iraq, Dorothy Garrod and her team excavated Zarzi cave, the type site of the Epipalaeolithic “Zarzian” lithic industry. Garrod reported the existence of “two small fragments of obsidian” in the principally chert-based microlithic assemblage. One of the two artifacts from Zarzi was analyzed by Renfrew and...
Article
The complexities of Later Stone Age environmental and behavioral variability in East Africa remain poorly defined, and toolstone sourcing is essential to understand the scale of the social and natural landscapes encountered by earlier human populations. The Naivasha-Nakuru Basin in Kenya's Rift Valley is a region that is not only highly sensitive t...
Article
Full-text available
The analysis of microscopic residues on stone tools provides one of the most direct ways to reconstruct the functions of such artifacts. However, new methods are needed to strengthen residue identifications based upon visible-light microscopy. In this work, we establish that reflectance Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIRM) can be us...
Article
Studies of Northern Mesopotamian complex societies have long been predicated on ceramic wares, whereby ceramic variation is thought to reflect cultural variation. There is, however, an increasing appreciation for the role of imitation, itinerancy, and other phenomena in the distribution of ceramic styles. Much of this newfound nuance is due to chem...
Article
Full-text available
A few of the major portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) manufacturers have released new models in the past year or two. The technologies in these latest instruments have advanced so much that any performance appraisals more than a few years old are essentially obsolete. The X-ray detectors and associated electronics inside a new pXRF analyzer are mor...
Article
With its well-preserved archaeological and environmental records, Aghitu-3 Cave permits us to examine the settlement patterns of the Upper Paleolithic (UP) people who inhabited the Armenian Highlands. We also test whether settlement of the region between ∼39–24,000 cal BP relates to environmental variability. The earliest evidence occurs in archaeo...
Article
Identifying the movement of lithic materials to reconstruct social networks has been a mainstay of research into Palaeolithic cognition and behavior, but such datasets are often predicated on studies of cherts and similar siliceous rocks, the origins of which can be difficult to establish conclusively. Yabroud Rockshelter II (YR2) in southern Syria...
Article
Full-text available
Here we report our recent discovery of a new obsidian source in central Armenia. Using portable XRF, we were able to chemically identify “Ptghni” obsidian as a previously unrecognized source on the same day that we first encountered it during our field surveys. Obsidian was found in alluvial-lacustrine sediments exposed within the Hrazdan Gorge, wh...
Article
The analysis of residues on stone tools can yield important insights into the tool-using behaviors of Paleolithic hominins. The ambiguity of residue identifications using visible-light microscopy (VLM) has led to the development of additional techniques for their characterization. Reflectance-based Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIR...
Article
Full-text available
Portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) instruments can source obsidian artifacts once beyond analytical reach, expanding the range of artifact classes included in sourcing research. It is now more straightforward to analyze a “museum quality” tool on display in a gallery than the flaking chips and resharpening debitage recovered with it. That is becaus...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
During the Late Pleistocene, modern humans expanded out of Africa and inhabited Eurasia for the first time. To better understand the context of this process in the Armenian Highlands and determine how climate affected the behavior of these early modern humans, we collected sediments from the Upper Paleolithic archaeological cave site Aghitu-3. This...
Article
Full-text available
In obsidian-rich Armenia, one of the most archaeologically significant obsidian resources is the Gutansar volcanic complex (GVC). Numerous Palaeolithic sites across Armenia consist of little more than deposits of obsidian tools and debris, and within the Hrazdan Gorge, the vast majority of artifacts is crafted from GVC obsidian. For example, about...
Article
Full-text available
Armenia has one of the most obsidian-rich natural and cultural landscapes in the world, and the lithic assemblages of numerous Palaeolithic sites are predominantly, if not entirely, composed of obsidian. Recent excavations at the Middle Palaeolithic cave of Lusakert 1 recovered, on average, 470 obsidian artifacts daily. After sourcing more than 170...
Article
The response from Speakman and Shackley to my paper highlights a number of important issues currently facing archaeological sourcing research. Many of these issues, however, have little to do with HHpXRF itself and more to do with an artificial crisis triggered by specialists' concerns about a hitherto restricted technique becoming available to a w...
Article
Handheld portable XRF (HHpXRF) has received considerable recent attention in archaeology, especially for obsidian sourcing. Published studies largely suggest a high potential for success. HHpXRF, though, has been met with debate and scepticism. Concerns fall into three categories: (1) low accuracy and precision, (2) data correction schemes and cali...
Article
We tested two portable XRF instruments (with different technologies) using two correction schemes (‘soils’ and ‘mining’) with both factory-set calibrations and linear regression calibrations derived from published data. All four Aegean obsidian sources, including Sta Nychia and Dhemenegaki on Melos, were distinguished in each case. The newer instru...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Site Setting Results and Conclusion References Acknowledgements
Article
Despite predictions in the 1980s that electron microprobe analysis (EMPA) would become a popular technique for obsidian sourcing, few studies have used it with this goal, and most of them are now outdated and unrepresentative of modern EMPA. For example, Merrick and Brown (1984) recorded their data on punch cards. Furthermore, these studies destruc...
Article
As new analytical techniques are brought to sourcing studies and researchers compile data into multi-laboratory databases, systematic evaluation is essential. The importance of precision and accuracy is clear, but Shackley (2005) also calls for “archaeological accuracy.” Hughes (1998) offered a framework to consider precision and accuracy alongside...
Article
Full-text available
https://ojcs.siue.edu/ojs/index.php/ssa/article/view/2269/571
Conference Paper
Ideally chemical analyses used for sourcing studies could be conducted in the field, quickly, and nondestructively. Unfortunately, most techniques require immobile instruments. One technique with great potential for on-site analysis is portable energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (ED-XRF). Thermo Fisher Scientific's NITON analyzer is a handheld ED...

Projects

Projects (7)
Project
This project centers on the geochemical sourcing and technotypological analysis of several large historic collections of obsidian implements recovered from very early Near Eastern Neolithic farming sites by Dr. Frank Hole (Yale University) and colleagues in the 1960s. Materials are currently curated by the Yale Peabody Museum. Sites include Ali Kosh and Chagha Sefid (Deh Luran Plain, southwestern Iran) and Umm Qseir (Middle Khabur Valley, northern Syria).
Project
The TransCause project investigates eco-geographically distinct sub-regions within Armenia between MIS 7 to 3 (250 – 29 ka). The TransCause research group brings together a wide range of independent innovative and established methodologies within a single research program as a means to test various models of hominin resilience in a multi-scalar manner. TransCause project aims to build a comprehensive behavioral, chronometric, biological using ancient population DNA, as well as establishing refined environmental frameworks. The project position in its heart as a main goal to unravel the past hunter-gatherer’s decision-making as a coping mechanism with challenging environments such as those of Armenia. The understanding of the economic, demographic, and social mechanisms behind the behavioral plasticity of our species is the ultimate ambition of this project. TranCause is an ERC Starting Grant starting in October 2021.
Project
This project investigates Late Pleistocene human – environmental interactions and seasonal mobility in a mountainous environment in the Southern Caucasus. This will be achieved through excavations at the open-air Middle Paleolithic (MP) site of Kalavan 2 (Armenia). Kalavan 2 is currently the only MP open-air locality in the Southern Caucasus with a stratified sequence that preserves faunal remains and lithic artifacts in association. Situated at 1640 masl, the site is ideally positioned for testing hypotheses on elevation-dependent seasonal mobility and subsistence strategies over repeated occupations in a single locale. The site of Kalavan 2 is situated ca. 8 km north of the current shores of Lake Sevan and 70 km northeast of Yerevan. Initially, the site was excavated by an Armenian – French expedition that exposed horizons of MP stone artifacts and animal remains distributed over at least four meters of stratified fluvial-alluvial deposits (Ghukasyan et al. 2011). In 2017 and 2018, renewed excavations at Kalavan 2 by the Armenian and Monrepos (Germany) research group exposed spatially at least three archeological layers in these deposits. All excavated layers yielded low densities of artifacts and well-preserved faunal remains indicating short occupational events. Kalavan 2 preserves evidence of hominin behavior at a high level of temporal resolution that is seldom visible at MP archaeological sites. A main goal of the current research is therefore to contextualize this evidence using multiple paleoenvironmental proxies and attempt to investigate seasonal patterns of hominin mobility and land use. The main aim of future fieldwork will be to expand the diachronic perspective at Kalavan 2 by additional excavation of further archeological horizons. This will involve exposing a large surface, to enable detailed spatial analysis of artifacts and faunal remains, and to enlarge the lithic artifact and faunal sample assemblages. These efforts will allow us to test whether or not we can identify the preservation of discrete subsistence activity areas. Kalavan 2 provides an exceptional opportunity to test hypotheses on subsistence strategies and elevation dependent annual mobility cycles that allowed hunter-gatherer populations to cope with seasonally changing resource availability, and persist in a rugged and environmentally diverse landscape. Such behavioral resolution is rarely visible archaeologically in Middle Paleolithic contexts. The proposed project is a step towards advancing an in-depth understanding of regional subsistence, mobility, and land-use patterns in the Southern Caucasus. This region at the crossroads of Eurasia was a paraglacial refugium for flora, fauna and possibly human populations, yet its role in Pleistocene human dispersals and behavioral evolution is still unresolved. Establishing a chronologically and environmentally contextualized database of regional hunter-gatherer behavior is crucial for ultimately elucidating Late Pleistocene hominin population dynamics. This project is supported by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung and Leakey Foundation.