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.”
Illegal Aliens Cleared For U.S. Military Service 2014 10 18
The Pentagon announced a new policy allowing illegal immigrants the opportunity to enlist in the armed forces, Thursday.
USA Today reports that the new recruitment policies will focus on people with "high-demand skills" like foreign language acumen and health care training:
"For the first time, the program — known as Military Accessions in the National Interest, or MAVNI — will ...
Bronze Age Sundial-Moondial Discovered in Russia 2014 10 16
A strange slab of rock discovered in Russia more than 20 years ago appears to be a combination sundial and moondial from the Bronze Age, a new study finds.
The slab is marked with round divots arranged in a circle, and an astronomical analysis suggests that these markings coincide with heavenly events, including sunrises and moonrises.
The sundial might be "evidence of ...
Humans may only survive 68 days on Mars 2014 10 15
Space enthusiasts planning a move to Mars may have to wait to relocate: conditions on the Red Planet are such that humans would likely begin dying within 68 days, a new study says.
Oxygen levels would start to deplete after about two months and scientists said new technologies are required before humans can permanently settle on Mars, according to the study ...
Tom Sunic’s letter to the US Ambassador to Hungary 2014 10 14 October 11, 2014
Mr. André Goodfriend
Embassy of the United States of America
Szabadság tér 12
Dear Mr. Goodfriend,
As an American citizen I would hereby like to express my concern over the recent decision by the Hungarian government to ban the National Policy Institute (NPI) conference which had been scheduled to take place in Budapest from October 3 to October 5, 2014. ...
"Vampire grave" found in Bulgaria 2014 10 14
A "vampire grave" containing a skeleton with a stake driven through its chest has been unearthed by a man known as "Bulgaria’s Indiana Jones".
Professor Nikolai Ovcharov – a crusading archaeologist who has dedicated his life to unearthing mysteries of ancient civilisations – said that he had made the discovery while excavating the ruins of Perperikon, an ancient Thracian city ...