5,000-year-old crystal dagger found in a Iberian Prehistoric tomb

The Crystal Dagger
The Crystal Dagger © Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia

Throughout history, archaeologists have discovered many tools from prehistoric civilizations. Most of them are made of stone, but in Spain, a group of researchers has found incredible weapons made of rock crystal. These pieces, which date to at least 3,000 BC, include an incredible crystal dagger that shows the extraordinary skill of whoever finds it carved.

Crystal dagger
The dagger blade © Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia

The incredible find was discovered in the tholos of Montelirio, a megalithic tomb found in southwestern Spain. This huge site is made of large slate slabs and is approximately 50 meters long. The site excavated between 2007 and 2010; Five years later, researchers from the University of Granada, the University of Seville and the Spanish Higher Council for Scientific Research published a study on glass tools. In addition to the dagger, they found 25 arrowheads and blades.

According to the study, it is common to find rock crystal in late prehistoric Iberian sites, but they are rarely studied in depth. To understand the purpose of these special weapons, we must first look at the context in which they were found.

The findings of the tholos of Montelirio?

Crystal dagger
A: Ontiveros arrowheads; B: Montelirio tholos arrowheads; C: Montelirio dagger blade; D: Montelirio tholos core; E: Montelirio knapping debris; F: Montelirio micro-blades; G: Montelirio tholos microblades © Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia.

The remains of at least 25 individuals were found within the Montelirio tholos. Previous analyzes have suggested that at least one man and several women died from poison ingestion. The remains of the women were sitting in a circular way in a chamber next to the bones of who could have been the leader of the group.

The tombs also contained many funerary artefacts, including “shrouds or clothing made from tens of thousands of beads pierced and decorated with amber beads,” as well as ivory objects and fragments of gold leaf. The crystal arrowheads were found together, leading researchers to believe that they could have been a ritual offering. Likewise, a funeral trousseau was found that included elephant tusk, jewellery, vessels and an ostrich egg.

A sacred dagger?

The Crystal Dagger
The Crystal Dagger © Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia

And the dagger? It was found by itself in a separate chamber, “along with an ivory hilt and scabbard.” The piece, which is 8.5 inches long, is shaped similarly to other daggers of the time (the difference, of course, is that those daggers were made of flint and this one is glass).

According to the researchers, the crystal would have had great symbolic significance at the time. People from high society used this stone to gain vitality or, according to beliefs, to obtain magical powers. This crystal dagger could therefore have been used in the performance of certain rituals. This weapon has an ivory wrist. For experts, this is one more element which proves that this dagger belonged to the elite of the time.

Great skill in craftsmanship

The crystal dagger
© Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia

The finishes on this glass dredger suggest that it was made by people who demonstrated great craftsmanship. Being considered by researchers as the “most technically sophisticated” ever discovered in the prehistory of Iberia and that would have required enormous skill to carve.

According to experts, the size of the dagger suggests that it was made from a single block of glass approximately 20 cm long and 5 cm thick. The 16 arrowheads were made by pressure carving, which is a process that consists of removing the thin scales along the edge of the stone. For researchers, this mimics the look of flint arrowheads, but they note that increased skill is required to forge such crystal items.

The meaning of glass weapons

As there were no crystal mines nearby, the materials for these objects must have been sourced from far away. This supports the idea that they were intended for an elite who could have afforded the luxury of gathering such materials and turning them into weapons. It is also interesting to note that none of the weapons appears to have belonged to a single individual, but rather everything indicates that they were for collective use.

“They probably represent funeral paraphernalia that was only accessible to the elite of this time period,” they write. the researchers. “On the other hand, the rock crystal must have had a symbolic function as a raw material with special meanings and connotations. The literature provides examples of societies in which rock crystal and quartz used as raw materials symbolize vitality, magical powers and connection with ancestors”.

Although we cannot be sure of their exact purpose, the discovery and study of these weapons offer us a fascinating look at the prehistoric cultures that roamed the Earth more than 5,000 years ago.

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  1. The poisoned human remains found must have been to serve and keep the deceased company in the after life… What was the poison? Nice unique crystal work, but the real story here may be the remains…

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