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Obsidian is trending, but it won’t be the tool of tomorrow

May 15, 2023

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It’s the sharpest material on earth. Millions of years old. And more recently it’s making appearances in your TikTok feed and on “Game of Thrones”. We’re talking about obsidian. 

“Obsidian is a very unique stone. It’s not even technically a stone, it’s a volcanic glass,” said Donny Dust, a professional caveman specializing in primitive skills and ancient technologies. “And that’s typically where you find pieces of obsidian, ancient volcanic areas, lava flows, things to that extent. And the one thing that makes obsidian so remarkable is it is essentially the sharpest thing on this planet.”

Dust said the cutting edge of obsidian is 500 times sharper than the sharpest steel blade.

“If you were to look at obsidian underneath a microscope compared to a razor blade, the razor blade would look like Swiss cheese under the microscope and the piece of obsidian would be super smooth. You can get all the way down to a single molecule on a piece of obsidian. And it is beyond sharp. But if you drop it, or you shoot it out of a bow and you miss your target, it’s very likely that obsidian is just going to explode. It’s going to fracture because it is glass,” Dust said.

The smooth, black glass isn’t just trendy, it’s been an important part of hunter-gatherer cultures around the world for 2 million years. In the United States, Obsidian Cliff is one of the largest deposits of the igneous rock.

“Native Americans arrived in Yellowstone National Park and started to collect obsidian as soon as they arrived about 11,000 or 11,500 years ago,” said Doug MacDonald, an archeologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Montana. He says Native Americans from all over the country sought it out because of its high quality.

“The most common period of time in which it was used nationally is called the Hopewell Interaction Sphere. It was about 3,000 years ago to about 1,000 years ago. And this was a group of Native Americans that lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in the Midwest, and they would bury their dead in mounds. And so as part of those burial ceremonies, they would accumulate wealth items from all over the country. And obsidian was one of those wealth items that was very much treasured for those burial ceremonies,” MacDonald added.

Today, researchers study obsidian to track the travels of ancient tribes. Yellowstone obsidian can be found as far away as New York state. 

“The modern technology called X-ray fluorescence has been able to show the chemical compositions of these different obsidian flows throughout the world, even though it all looks pretty much the same, or that you’re finding in Italy or Africa, Asia or the Americas. The obsidian looks kind of the same, but it all has very distinctive chemical compositions. And so the XRF or X-ray fluorescence technology has allowed scientists to identify that unique chemical composition of each volcanic flow. So there’s about 1520 different obsidian flows, even within Yellowstone itself. And so each one of those is distinctive, and we can identify which ones are which, based on the chemical composition,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald says the amount of glass at Obsidian Cliff could fill three large football stadiums.

“Obsidian isn’t just recognized as a modern day treasure. It’s still used in ceremonies and also the rituals of indigenous people throughout the world,” said Laura Joki, a rock and gem expert and the owner of Rock Your World in Lincoln City, Oregon. 

“In the past, it’s known for being a grounding stone that can help you avoid taking on others’ negative energy, which frees you up to use your energy to move forward in life,” Joki said.

She said while obsidian can be found in some modern day surgical scalpels, it’s mainly being used in recreating artifacts and making jewelry.

“If your goal is to make a living, you know, collecting obsidian, you might as well pick a different sort of pursuit because it’s not a huge profit,” Dust added. 

If you’re still thinking of picking up a piece of obsidian for yourself, the experts have a warning. 

“A lot of people get fooled online when they buy materials online,” Dust warns. “Because you see the black obsidian in its original form, but what’s actually going on inside that stone could be completely different than what’s on the outside. You could have crystals, you could have air pockets, you can have all these irregularities because at that time, that’s how it formed. And essentially, it’s just junk stone.”

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IT’S THE SHARPEST MATERIAL ON EARTH. MILLIONS OF YEARS OLD. AND MORE RECENTLY – ITS MAKING APPEARANCES ON YOUR TIKTOK FEED AND ON ‘GAME OF THRONES’.

 

WE’RE TALKING ABOUT OBSIDIAN. 

 

DONNY DUST | WILDERNESS SELF RELIANCE EDUCATOR: “Obsidian is a very unique stone. It’s not even technically a stone / It’s a volcanic glass. And that’s typically where you find pieces of obsidian, ancient volcanic areas, lava flows, things to that extent. And the one thing that makes obsidian so remarkable is it is essentially the sharpest thing on this planet.”

 

DONNY DUST IS A PROFESSIONAL CAVEMAN. SPECIALIZING IN PRIMITIVE SKILLS AND ANCIENT TECHNOLOGIES. HE SAYS THE CUTTING EDGE OF OBSIDIAN IS 500 TIMES SHARPER THAN THE SHARPEST STEEL BLADE.

 

DUST: “If you were to look at obsidian underneath a microscope compared to a razor blade, the razor blade would look like Swiss cheese under the microscope. And the piece of obsidian would be super smooth, you can get all the way down to a single molecule on a piece of obsidian. And it is beyond sharp. / @ 07:36 But if you drop it, you shoot it out of a bow and you miss your target. It’s very likely that obsidian is just going to explode, it’s going to fracture because it is glass.”

 

THE SMOOTH, BLACK GLASS ISN’T JUST TRENDY- IT’S BEEN AN IMPORTANT PART OF HUNTER-GATHERER CULTURES AROUND THE WORLD FOR 2-MILLION YEARS. HERE IN THE STATES, OBSIDIAN CLIFF IS ONE OF THE LARGEST DEPOSITS OF THE IGNEOUS ROCK. 

 

DOUG MACDONALD | PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA: “Native Americans arrived in Yellowstone National Park and, and started to collect obsidian as soon as they arrived about 11,000 or 11,500 years ago.

 

ARCHEOLOGIST DOUG MACDONALD SAYS NATIVE AMERICANS FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY SOUGHT IT OUT BECAUSE OF ITS HIGH QUALITY. 

 

MACDONALD: “The most common period of time in which it was used nationally is called the Hopewell interaction sphere. It was about 3000 years ago to about 1000 years ago. And this was a group of Native American that lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in the Midwest, and they would bury their dead in mounds. And so as part of those burial ceremonies, they would accumulate wealth items from all over the country. And obsidian was one of those wealth items that was very much treasured at the for those burial ceremonies.”

 

TODAY, RESEARCHERS STUDY OBSIDIAN TO TRACK THE TRAVELS OF ANCIENT TRIBES. YELLOWSTONE OBSIDIAN CAN BE FOUND AS FAR AWAY AS NEW YORK STATE. 

 

MACDONALD: “The modern technology called X-ray fluorescence has been able to show the chemical compositions of these different obsidian flows throughout the world, even though it all looks pretty much the same, or that you’re finding in Italy or Africa, Asia or the Americas. The obsidian looks kind of the same, but it all has very distinctive chemical compositions. And so the X RF or X ray fluorescence technology has allowed scientists to identify that unique chemical composition of each volcanic flow. So there’s about 1520, different obsidian flows, even within Yellowstone itself. And so each one of those is distinctive, and we can identify which ones are which, based on the chemical composition.”

 

MACDONALD SAYS THE AMOUNT OF GLASS AT OBSIDIAN CLIFF COULD FILL THREE LARGE FOOTBALL STADIUMS. 

 

LAURA JOKI | OWNER, ROCK YOUR WORLD: “Obsidian isn’t just recognized as a modern day treasure. It’s still used in ceremonies and also the rituals of indigenous people throughout the world” 

 

BUT WHAT ABOUT MODERN USES? 

 

JOKI: “In modern day parlance, essentially what we’re using it for now, and probably, you know, others felt about it in the past is that it’s known for being a grounding stone that can help you avoid taking on others negative energy, which frees you up to use your energy to move forward in life.”

 

LAURA JOKI IS A ROCK AND GEM EXPERT. SHE SAYS WHILE OBSIDIAN CAN BE FOUND IN SOME MODERN DAY SURGICAL  SCALPELS, IT’S MAINLY BEING USED IN RECREATING ARTIFACTS AND MAKING JEWELRY. 

 

DUST @ 19:30 “If your goal is to make a living, you know, collecting obsidian, you might as well pick a different sort of pursuit because it’s not a huge profit.”

 

IF YOU’RE STILL THINKING OF PICKING UP A PIECE OF OBSIDIAN FOR YOURSELF, OUR EXPERTS HAVE A WARNING. 

 

JOKI: “The most dangerous thing about obsidian is buying potentially fake obsidian which sometimes, you know, it could have who knows what kind of manufacturing chemicals and like the pendant or how the processing went.”

 

DUST: “A lot of people get fooled online when they buy materials online because you see the black obsidian in its original form. But what’s actually going on inside that stone could be completely different than what’s on the outside. You could have crystals, you could have air pockets, you can have all these irregularities, because at that time, that’s how it formed. And essentially, it’s just junk stone. So a little bit more regulation wouldn’t hurt.”

 

FOR NOW OBSIDIAN IS ONLINE, AND NOT JUST IN MINECRAFT.