Natural Glass in Antiquity

The most common and most well-known natural glass is obsidian, a type of volcanic glass formed as a result of the rapid cooling of lava (molten rock).
Obsidian Instruments. Turkey, 5th millennium BC.
Obsidian Instruments. Turkey, 5th millennium BC.

Being one of the first natural materials that were widely used in everyday life, obsidian was used both as an instrument of labor and as parts of different types of weapons — knives, arrowheads, spears, and so on. Also, obsidian was used for the manufacture of household items - mirrors, glasses, masks, ritual figures, and jewelry. They used also obsidian objects as cult objects applicable during rituals, for example, in Aztecs and Maya. Obsidian was also used in glyptics and decorative sculpture.

A common property that combines obsidian with ordinary glass is its ability to crack into narrow fragments with sharp cutting or piercing edges. This property of his was especially appreciated by primitive people in the era preceding the invention of metal tools and weapons. It is because of this property that obsidian played a large role in the history of mankind.
Polished Obsidian

The Mayans and Aztecs did not know how to smelt iron, and they made their piercing-cutting tools precisely from obsidian. The absence of a crystal lattice has given the obsidian the advantage thanks to which the first-ever medical, surgical instruments in terms of their sharpness and sharpening capabilities, no metal scalpel can still match.

The major developments of obsidian, leading its origin from ancient times, are known in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. Also known are old obsidian mines in the state of Guerrero.

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