Brill’s New Pauly

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Obsidian
(280 words)

[German version]

(obsianus lapis, 'stone of Obsius'; obsidianus is the incorrect reading) is a dark, vitreous (Plin. HN 36,196: in genere vitri = Isid. Orig. 16,16,5) volcanic rock that a certain Obsius of Ethiopia is said to have imported to Rome.

In the Near East, obsidian was highly regarded from the 8th millennium and in Egypt from the 4th millennium, principally because of the sharp cutting edges of tools that were made of obsidian blades but also because its semi-transparent property made it attractive as a gemstone (Akkadian ṣurru; Egyptian mnw). From the 2nd millennium, obsid…

Cite this page
Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) and Nissen, Hans Jörg (Berlin), “Obsidian”, in: Brill’s New Pauly, Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and , Helmuth Schneider, English Edition by: Christine F. Salazar, Classical Tradition volumes edited by: Manfred Landfester, English Edition by: Francis G. Gentry. Consulted online on 24 January 2021 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1574-9347_bnp_e827590>
First published online: 2006
First print edition: 9789004122598, 20110510



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