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September 6 2012

New obsidian source points to ancient control of resources


As ancient sites and cultural heritage are under threat in Syria during the increasingly destructive conflict, an interdisciplinary research team hopes this new discovery, which has major implications for understanding the world’s first empire, will help highlight the importance of protecting Syria’s heritage.

Obsidian, naturally occurring volcanic glass, is smooth, hard, and far sharper than a surgical scalpel when fractured, making it a highly desired raw material for crafting stone tools for most of human history. In fact, obsidian tools continued to be used throughout the ancient Middle East for millennia beyond the introduction of metals, and obsidian blades are still used today as scalpels in specialised medical procedures.

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