GLASS FACTS by Glass & Art

GLASS FACTS by Glass & Art

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The first pioneers who worked with glass

Glass shards can give nasty cuts, and that is exactly what the first human use of glass was all about.

The glass axe shown here was made in the 4th to 3rd millennium BC. That makes it about 5000 years old, but far older pieces have been found. In Kariandusi (Kenya), the oldest pieces of human-worked glass are found, dating from 700,000 BC!

Glass axes, arrowheads and cutting tools are the earliest examples of human use of glass, but the glass was not fully human made. These tools were carved from a piece of obsidian, a naturally occurring, often black kind of glass, which (under the right conditions)  exists as a byproduct of volcanic eruptions. Obsidian is very hard and brittle, and therefore hard to work. With some skill, however, it is possible to chip off flakes.  When shaped as a cutting or piercing tool it becomes extremely sharp, hence this early use.

The axe shown here is made and found in de region of Vicenza (Conte Giulio da Schio, Italy), which is about 30 km from Venice. In Neolithic times, the obsidian trade was flourishing in the Western Mediterranean, making the Italian international glass-history and legacy even longer!

On the left a video "how to flintknap obsidian" and on the right an explanation of different kinds of obsidian.

Obsidian axe. 4th millenium BC.  Natural History and Archaeological
Museum of Vicenza. Photo Katinka Waelbers.