It’s sharper than a scalpel, paved the way for one of the world’s earliest empires - and is now at the heart of pioneering research. Rachael Clegg talks to Dr Ellery Frahm about his discoveries.
Dr. Ellery Frahm is on a mission. It’s a mission that involves a much-coveted natural material, Middle Eastern conflict, and world-leading research on the development of the globe’s very first civilisation.
Indiana Jones, eat your heart out. Ellery, aged 35, is an archaeologist from The University of Sheffield, and embarked on a trip to the Middle East that changed his understanding of human history.
His team’s research took them to Syria, where they found objects made from ‘obsidian’ - a naturally-occurring, blackish-coloured, volcanic glass that is sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel.
So sharp is this material that it was used as a tool in large-scale agriculture in what was then ancient Mesopotamia. This, in turn, allowed populations to grow - and civilisation, as we know it, to develop.
“It was at that time, 2600BC, that societies were expanding,” says Ellery. “They were reaching a new level of complexity and states were starting to form in Southern Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, and Northern Mesopotamia, which is now Syria.”
The glass objects are evidence of the very first trade networks that helped to define and develop the first civilisation - the Akkadian empire.
The dates of this glass - which would have been transported up to 1,000km - are from the height of the Akkadian empire.
“This is effectively the start of ancient globalisation, and this is material evidence that these states were trading with other parts of the world,” says Ellery.
The type of obsidian the objects were made from presented Ellery - from Broomhill - with a conundrum. Up to now, the last 50 years’ worth of research into obsidian suggested this type of glass shouldn’t be where Ellery found it - in Tell Mozan, Syria, near the Iraqi Turkish border.
No-one believed the ancient civilisations there had the means or knowledge to transport a material from central Turkey to modern day Syria. But they did.
And, better still, these unexpected objects were found at the site of a royal palace.
“They could have been presented as a gift or as a manifestation of a new ruler’s decision to establish authority in the area by surrounding themselves with symbols of status,” says Ellery.
“This is a rare, if not unique, discovery in Northern Mesopotamia that enables new insights into changing Bronze Age economics and geopolitics. We can identify where an obsidian artefact originated because each volcanic source has a distinctive ‘fingerprint’.
“This is why obsidian sourcing is a powerful means of reconstructing past trade routes, social boundaries, and other information that allows us to engage in major social science debates.”
The Unsafe Child: Less Outdoor Play is Causing More Harm than Good 2015-09-02 0:39
The third grade classroom that was visiting our nature center for the day consisted of mostly boys–rowdy, loud and rambunctious boys. As we started out into the woods, the children spoke loudly to each other in anticipation of what was to come. After playing a quick game and explaining the ground rules, it was time for free play. As soon ...
Rights group demand police need warrant to access data 2015-09-01 23:48
American citizens should be able to rest safe in the knowledge that no one has the right to pry into their digital records, where they have been and how long they stayed there.
The Supreme Court has just received a brief from the Electronic Frontier Federation (EFF) stating that this should certainly be the case. However, in the case of Davis v. ...
Murder Rates Rising Sharply in Many U.S. Cities 2015-09-01 23:33
Cities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines, and few places have witnessed a shift as precipitous as this city [Milwaukee]. With the summer not yet over, 104 people have been killed this yearâ€“after 86 homicides in all of 2014.
More than 30 other cities have also reported increases in violence from a year ...
Bulgaria - Islamic State Terrorists Caught Crossing Into Europe Posing As Refugees 2015-09-01 23:47
Bulgarian authorities near the Gyueshevo border checkpoint detained the five men, aged between 20 and 24, late on Wednesday, Bulgarian broadcaster NOVA TV reported.
The men were stopped by a border guard, who they attempted to bribe with a “wad of dollars.” However, they were searched and Islamic State propaganda, specific Jihadists prayers and decapitation videos were found on their phones.
How This NY Mom Made the Case for Her Sonâ€™s Religious Vaccine Exemption 2015-09-01 22:27
An unidentified, Russian immigrant mother who practices the Russian Orthodox faith, has secured a religious vaccine exemption for her autistic son. New York has a bill on the table to eliminate religious exemption and to root out those who weren’t refusing vaccines on strictly devout, religious grounds. Yet, this woman’s plight goes back before talk of eliminating the exemption – two ...