Obsidian Vessels from Tepe Gawra

By: C. B.

Originally Published in 1935

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INTRUSIVE in Level 11 of the Great Mound were discovered last year a number of Libn tombs described from time to time in the Bulletin. These tombs were built sometime between the two occupations of Levels 8 and 9-they undoubtedly date about 3500 years before Christ. In one of these tombs were over twenty-five thousand beads, of which nearly eighteen hundred had been cut and polished from natural volcanic glass or obsidian. Besides these obsidian beads were two vessels of obsidian. (Plate IX.)

Two round obsidian vessels, both with spouts
Plate IX — Vessels of polished obsidian excavated at Tepe Gawra during the 1935 Season
Museum Object Numbers: 35-10-287

In the Near East the chief source of obsidian lies in the Caucasus mountains probably the point of origin of the raw material of these astonishing products of ancient obsidian carving. It must be remembered that the artisans who shaped these vessels were equipped only with the most primitive instruments, such as reed drills, bone chippers and flakers and sand as an abrasive. Obsidian, like artificial glass, is very brittle and hard. The amount of labor expended on these two objects must have been tremendous.

The vessels are finished and polished and because of this fact they are unique. The only other complete obsidian vessel from Mesopotamia of any period was discovered three years ago at Arpachiyah, a nearby site, by Mr. Mallowan of the British Museum. That piece has not been polished and the outside has the irregular surface produced by flaking only. Fragments of other obsidian vessels have been found at Warka, but the discovery of these two superb vessels at Tepe Gawra was required to show the complete mastery of this difficult medium which was attained in these early times.

C. B.

Cite This Article

B., C.. "Obsidian Vessels from Tepe Gawra." Museum Bulletin VI, no. 1 (October, 1935): 29-31. Accessed July 24, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/1672/

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