Obsidian is a naturally formed volcanic glass that was an important part of the material culture of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Obsidian was a highly integrated part of daily and ritual life, and its widespread and varied use may be a significant contributor to Mesoamerica's lack of metallurgy. Lithic and contextual analysis of obsidian, including source studies, are important components of archaeological studies of past Mesoamerican cultures and inform scholars on economy, technological organization, long-distance trade, ritual organization, and socio-cultural structure. Due to its cryptocrystalline internal structure, obsidian is relatively easy to work, as it breaks in very predictable and controlled ways via conchoidal fracturing. This contributed to its prolific use throughout Mesoamerica.
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The obsidian hydration dating method was introduced to the archaeological community in by Irving Friedman and Robert Smith of the U. Geological Survey Friedman and Smith The potential of the method in archaeological chronologic studies was quickly recognized and research concerning the effect of different variables on the rate of hydration has continued to the present day by Friedman and others. When a new surface of obsidian is exposed to the atmosphere, such as during the manufacture of glass tools, water begins to slowly diffuse from the surface into the interior of the specimen. When this hydrated layer or rind reaches a thickness of about 0. Hydration rims formed on artifacts can vary in width from less than one micron for items from the early historic period to nearly 30 microns for early sites in Africa Michels et al. Formation of the hydration rim is affected not only by time but also by several other variables.
Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory
A weathering rind is a discolored, chemically altered, outer zone or layer of a discrete rock fragment formed by the processes of weathering. The inner boundary of a weathering rind approximately parallels the outer surface of the rock fragment in which it has developed. Rock fragments with weathering rinds normally are discrete clasts , ranging in size from pebbles to cobbles or boulders.
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