Glass acts from an ancient world
2012 09 11

By Rachael Clegg | TheStar.co.uk

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.”

But the importance of obsidian is underrated.

[...]


Read the full article at: thestar.co.uk
















Related Articles
9500 year old obsidian bracelet found in Aşıklı Höyük, Turkey shows exceptional craft skills
Syrian obsidian discovery opens new chapter in Middle Eastern studies


Latest News from our Front Page

NATO Exercise in Ukraine Coincided with MH-17 Shoot-down
2014 07 24
Rapid Trident was omitted from the flurry of coverage on the shoot-down MH-17. From the U.S. Army in Europe website: Rapid Trident supports interoperability among Ukraine, the United States, NATO and Partnership for Peace member nations. The exercise helps prepare participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies. ...
Warning of ’imminent’ terror attack in Norway
2014 07 24
Norwegians were warned Thursday of the concrete possibility of a terror attack occurring in that country at the hands of people with connections to an extremist group in Syria. A press conference was called in Oslo, Norway on Thursday where an announcement was made of a "possible concrete threat" to national security in that country from terrorists related to an extremist ...
Judge says government can access everything in a Gmail account
2014 07 24
All your emails are belong to us. At least that’s what the latest court order from a judge in New York says. The warrant, granted on June 11, states that the government can access all the content and files contained in a Gmail account. Yes, this is a significant blow to privacy. The subject of this specific search relates to a money laundering ...
Scotland Yard Spied on Grieving Families: secret surveillance after police victim shot seven times in head ’by mistake’
2014 07 24
More terror from the ’anti-terror’ brigade. Undercover police gathered evidence on 18 grieving families By Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd | The Guardian Undercover police officers secretly gathered intelligence over two decades on 18 families fighting to get justice from the police, it was revealed on Thursday. The intelligence covering high-profile campaigns was collected between the mid-1980s and 2005, and affected grieving families ...
Air Algerie AH5017 with 116 onboard goes missing for hours, found crashed in Mali
2014 07 24
An Air Algerie flight carrying 110 passengers and six crew members has reportedly crashed in Mali after having disappeared from radar early on Thursday morning between Burkina Faso and Algeria. A French Ministry of Defense official told Fox News that the two French fighter jets located the wreckage of the plane, which had crashed in Mali. An airport official additionally confirmed ...
More News »