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Heart of Glass - Obsidian Blades

Updated: Jan 21

Discover what happens when lava turns to glass! Obsidian is an amazing material that was used by lots of ancient and modern people. From arrowheads to knives and mirrors, find out more about extraordinary obsidian.


This amazing obsidian blade core, that you can see at the Hellenic Museum, is from the Bronze Age (3,200-2000 BCE). Can you see the pattern of obsidian strips that were chipped off?


Obsidian is a kind of volcanic glass that is created when lava cools quickly. Neolithic or Stone Age people in Greece, and other parts of the world where there is volcanic activity (like Iceland, Mexico, Russia and Hawaii), could find chunks of obsidian in cliff sides and riverbeds. They used it to make sharp tools.


Sharp obsidian arrowheads that could have been used for hunting


In Greece, obsidian could be found on volcanic islands in the Aegean Sea. Obsidian was traded among people from different Greek islands. Chunks of obsidian, called cores, would be hit or chipped with a heavy stone tool to break long, sharp strips of obsidian from it. The strips were then shaped to become tools like knives and spear tips


Greek volcanic island, Milos. Blade cores are leftover once blades have been chipped off

 

MORE OBSIDIAN AROUND THE WORLD!


AZTEC OBSIDIAN MIRRORS


Aztecs made shiny black mirrors out of obsidian. Aztec priests looked into these mirrors to communicate with the gods and make prophecies (foretell the future).


Obsidian Mirror Pyramid of the Sun Aztec priests performing a ritual


BY THE WAY: The Aztects were a group of people from central Mexico. Their civilisation was most powerful from 1300 to 1521 CE.


OBSIDIAN AND THE RONGORONGO TABLETS

The mysterious Rongorongo scripture system of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) can be seen on these wooden tablets. The tablets were created by the Rapa Nui people at some point between 1706-1882 CE. Historians have not been able to decode the glyphs (symbols) to understand what the tablets tell us. But we do know that sharp obsidian flakes (pieces) were used to inscribe the tablets with these glyphs.

Rongorongo Tablets Obdisian flakes Rongorongo Tablets - Berlin

Rapa Nui, also called Easter Island on a map


If you want to see this fascinating piece of volcanic glass and other amazing tools from the Greek Stone Age up close, visit the Hellenic Museum!

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