Oldest obsidian bracelet reveals amazing craftsmen's skills in the eighth millennium BC

Dec 21, 2011
The obsidian bracelet from Aşıklı Höyük. a. Shape and dimensions, b. Symmetry of the object. Credit: Obsidian Use Project Archives. This image is available from the CNRS photo library, phototheque@cnrs-bellevue.fr

Researchers from the Institut Français d'Etudes Anatoliennes in Istanbul and the Laboratoire de Tribologie et de Dynamiques des Systèmes have analyzed the oldest obsidian bracelet ever identified, discovered in the 1990s at the site of Aşıklı Höyük, Turkey. Using high-tech methods developed by LTDS to study the bracelet's surface and its micro-topographic features, the researchers have revealed the astounding technical expertise of craftsmen in the eighth millennium BC. Their skills were highly sophisticated for this period in late prehistory, and on a par with today's polishing techniques. This work is published in the December 2011 issue of Journal of Archaeological Science, and sheds new light on Neolithic societies, which remain highly mysterious.

Dated to 7500 BC, the obsidian bracelet studied by the researchers is unique. It is the earliest evidence of obsidian working, which only reached its peak in the seventh and sixth millennia BC with the production of all kinds of ornamental objects, including mirrors and vessels. It has a complex shape and a remarkable central annular ridge, and is 10 cm in diameter and 3.3 cm wide. Discovered in 1995 at the exceptional site of Asıklı Höyük in Turkey and displayed ever since at the Aksaray Archeological Museum, the ring was studied in 2009, after Mihriban Özbasaran, Professor at the University of Istanbul's Department of Prehistory, resumed excavations. 

Digital reconstruction of the bracelet proposed by Mohamed Ben Tkaya (LTDS). Credit: Obsidian Use Project Archives. This image is available from the CNRS photo library, phototheque@cnrs-bellevue.fr

Laurence Astruc, a CNRS researcher and her colleagues analyzed the bracelet using extremely powerful computer technologies developed by LTDS researchers Hassan Zahouani (ENISE) and Roberto Vargiolu (ECL). Developed for industry in order to characterize the 'orange peel effect' on painted car bodywork, these methods, known as multi-scale tribological analysis, have been adapted for the study of micro-topographic features on archeological artefacts. They seek to identify every single operation performed on the surface of these objects.

This process has revealed that the bracelet was made using highly specialized manufacturing techniques. The analyses carried out showed that the bracelet was almost perfectly regular. The symmetry of the central annular ridge is extremely precise, to the nearest degree and nearest hundred micrometers. This suggests that the artisans of the time used models to control its shape when it was being made. The surface finish of the bracelet (which is very regular, resembling a mirror) required the use of complex polishing techniques capable of obtaining a nanometer-scale surface quality worthy of today's telescope lenses.

Led by Laurence Astruc, the work was carried out in collaboration with the University of Istanbul and was funded by France's National Research Agency as part of the 'Obsidian: Practical Techniques and Uses in Anatolia' program (ANR 08-Blanc-0318). In the program, the Asıklı Höyük is the first object to have been studied among some sixty other polished obsidian artefacts.

In collaboration with the University of Manchester and the British Museum, Laurence Astruc's team is now analyzing ornamental objects found at the Halaf sites of Domuztepe in Eastern Central Anatolia and Arpachiyyah in Iraq.

Explore further: Cougars' diverse diet helped them survive the Pleistocene mass extinction

More information: Astruc L., et al., Multi-scale tribological analysis of the technique of manufacture of an obsidian bracelet from Aşıklı Höyük (Aceramic Neolithic, Central Anatolia), Journal of Archaeological Science 38 (2011): 3415-3424.

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Nanobanano
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 21, 2011
The surface finish of the bracelet (which is very regular, resembling a mirror) required the use of complex polishing techniques capable of obtaining a nanometer-scale surface quality worthy of today's telescope lenses.


So, the "cave-men" used telescope quality polishing on common jewelry.

Anyone care to explain that one?

Hey, maybe it's not jewelry at all. Maybe it's a piece of machinery from an advanced alien's ship.
InsaniD
3.9 / 5 (7) Dec 21, 2011
The surface finish of the bracelet (which is very regular, resembling a mirror) required the use of complex polishing techniques capable of obtaining a nanometer-scale surface quality worthy of today's telescope lenses.


So, the "cave-men" used telescope quality polishing on common jewelry.

Anyone care to explain that one?


Sure nanobrain. When we read the sentence, it says "WORTHY OF", meaning it compares with the quality we can get on lenses with modern processes that these people didn't have. Like many master-craftsmen of antiquity, they took their time to do the job right, using smaller and smaller sanding particles to polish the surface until it was "perfect". Seems to me it compares with the precision of the stones cut for many of the pyramids, which, of course, we all know are actually alien landing pads. Speaking of, you best hurry or the mothership might leave you behind; they'd be doing earthlings no favors if that happened...
Argiod
1.6 / 5 (9) Dec 21, 2011
...and we have the unmitigated gall to call these sophisticated peoples 'primitive'. Perhaps we should take a more humble approach and see what WE can learn from THEM... Maybe WE are the primitive ones, who have not yet caught up with their knowledge...
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (7) Dec 21, 2011
what about that hammer they found from 100 million years ago, thats what the handle dates at and it had an iron head like a sledge hammer. the handle has actually started to turn to coal, the whole thing was encased in some kind of rock.
scidog
5 / 5 (4) Dec 22, 2011
the word primitive is one of those that got a bad rap,like "fittest" as used by Darwin and not what it has been mangled to mean.primitive as in prime,first,not crude or unthinking.
we have no idea of how many were made before the process became perfected or how they hit on tools and materials or how long it all took to come up with objects like this.in the end the message is that people have always been clever.
Ojorf
5 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2011
what about that hammer they found from 100 million years ago...


It's a HOAX, ha ha!

http://www.paleo....mmer.htm
Isaacsname
not rated yet Dec 22, 2011
Neat, I wonder if they fire-polished it to get the surface instead of using abrasives. If they did polish it using something like grit,..hhhmm,....that's almost hard to believe, especially since I have experience cold-working glass. You have to use something like a slurry of cirium oxide nanoparticles for a final polishing run when you are working glass surfaces.
CHollman82
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 22, 2011
The surface finish of the bracelet (which is very regular, resembling a mirror) required the use of complex polishing techniques capable of obtaining a nanometer-scale surface quality worthy of today's telescope lenses.


So, the "cave-men" used telescope quality polishing on common jewelry.

Anyone care to explain that one?

Hey, maybe it's not jewelry at all. Maybe it's a piece of machinery from an advanced alien's ship.


Take a step back, you've gone full retard.
Bigbobswinden
3 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2011
Looks like the basic shape was turned on a lathe with some very good bearings and some fancy cutting tools.
uziq
1 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2011
Like many master-craftsmen of antiquity, they took their time to do the job right, using smaller and smaller sanding particles to polish the surface until it was "perfect". Seems to me it compares with the precision of the stones cut for many of the pyramids, which, of course, we all know are actually alien landing pads. Speaking of, you best hurry or the mothership might leave you behind; they'd be doing earthlings no favors if that happened...


Yeah, except that saying something like "Like many master-craftsmen of antiquity, they took their time to do the job right, using smaller and smaller sanding particles to polish the surface until it was "perfect"." is a pretty big assertion when you know... this kind of craftsmanship was NOT KNOWN in the 8th millenium BC..
CHollman82
3 / 5 (4) Dec 23, 2011
this kind of craftsmanship was NOT KNOWN in the 8th millenium BC..


Not according to this article...
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (2) Dec 25, 2011
Not according to this article...


the article claims this was polished to the nanometer scale, and compares it to a telescope lens.

Do you honestly think somebody did that with hand tools or grains of fine sand?
Antiqueguy
5 / 5 (2) Dec 25, 2011
One of the things people forget is the amount of time ancient craftsman sometimes devoted to their work. This allows for different grits to be used to hand polish an artifact to this level. What it speaks to is the value this had to the class that paid for the artifact, as well as the dedication of the craftsman.

Note: Chinese jade carvings were cut by using just sand and bamboo rods being twirled or rubbed. Jade being harder than steel an intricate single piece might take a mans whole lifetime to make. That is how a piece could be hand polished to the nano level.
nizzim
1 / 5 (1) Dec 27, 2011
Ok well how the hell did they find a polish that could polish at the nanometer scale? What abrasives did they have that we're that fine? I just read an article similar about ancient Chinese using diamond supposedly but it also said we are incapable of such fine work even today!
http://www.purein...ode/2766
Antiqueguy
5 / 5 (2) Dec 28, 2011
Gems today are polished to mirror finish using such mundane items as leather and felt. These would have been available in ancient times as well. The inability to match ancient techniques may point more to the skill of a life time craftsman vs the abilities of a machine.
Bethe
5 / 5 (1) Jan 02, 2012
A great comment, Antiqueguy! This is the kind of thing schools need to think about before they eliminate any more hands-on and arts courses in favor of test score courses. We'll create a new generation of people who won't believe even what their grandparents could do.

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