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!
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.
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.