Friday, September 2, 2011

New Research Shows that Greeks Had a Pre-Bronze Age Maritime Culture

An astonishing scientific discovery has recently proved that the Greeks had a thriving society long before the Age of Democracy. Researcher Nicolaos Laskaris of the University of the Aegean in Greece has been studying obsidian, a very hard volcanic glass, in the waters around the Greek island of Melos. Using new techniques for dating obsidian, Laskaris and his team have stumbled upon an amazing discovery: people had been mining the valuable rock from the Mediterranean around Melos as far back as 15,000 years ago!

Because of its durability, obsidian was frequently used to construct tools, particularly in the years before the Bronze Age. The use of obsidian tools and weapons spread through different parts of Greece. Obsidian tools dating back to 8,500 BCE were found in the Frachthi Cave in the south Peloponnese, far away from the island of Melos. However, geological testing proved that the artifacts found in the cave were in fact from Melos.

Laskaris and his team took this one step further, using two techniques called obsidian hydration dating (OHD) and secondary ion mass spectrometry of surface saturation (SIMS-SS), to prove that obsidian artifacts from Melos were actually making their way to mainland Greece thousands of years before scientists had actually thought, based on the findings in the Frachthi Cave. The key to the significance of the discovery lies in its implications: if obsidian mined from the waters around Melos was making its way miles away to the mainland and to other parts of Greece, how did it get there? Laskaris and other researchers have drawn the conclusion that pre-Bronze Age Greeks must have constructed a type of early boat to facilitate maritime transport.

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