§ 3.— Uscs of Obsidiail: the Krnfc and Razor.
The ultimate object of the vast export-industry carried on at the
quarries, as of the local manufacture at Phylakopi, was the production of
keen-edged flakes. Düring the latter parfc of the Neolithic Age and far into
the Bronze Age the blocks from which tliey could be Struck seem to have
been in demand over a wide area, and the flakes themselves must have
played the same part in everyday life as out pocket-knives, razors, and
The Mexican parallel is instructive. Long after the introduction of
bronze, and even after the Spanish Conquest, the obsidian quarries at Cerro
de las Navajas, the Hill of Knives, were the centre of an important
industry. The use made of the material was more varied than in Melos ;
it was ground down with sand into mirrors, masks, rings and cups—a
developnient unknown in the Aegean, though there is reason to think that
lapidary's work of this kind was applied to Melian obsidian in Egypt; but
the staple product was the flake, and the Spanish writers imply that the
flakes were chiefly used as razors.1 They were easily blunted by use and
were then thrown away; a single workman could produce a hundred in an
hour, so that they were abundant and chea}).
The difference in size between the Mexican and Mycenaean razors of
obsidian may bo due in part to a difference of custom. " The Mexicans as a
race did not have heavy beards, but the masses among the male population
shaved thoir heads with the exception of a small tuft near the crown."2
The Mycenaeans, on the other hand, wore their hair long; some of them
seem to have been " clean-shaven," others to have shaved only the upper lip)
a custom, grotesque according to our ideas, which continued to be widely
prevalent during the early Hellenic period, arid was enjoined if not enforced
by law at Sparta.3 The small flake used in the Aegean sufficed for the
shaving of this limited surface.
Torquemada's description of the way in which the Mexican flakes were
detached from the core, not by a blow but by jjressure with a wooden point,
may explain why no stone flaking-tools were found with the Melian deposit.
The workman sat on the ground, holding the block of obsidian between his
naked feet as in a vice and grasping the wooden fiaking-tool with both
hands; it was a stick about three cubits long, and seems to have had a crutch-
shaped crosspiece at the upper end, which rested against the Operators ehest,
so that he could regulato the pressure with his body while directing the tijj
with his hands.4 The formation of the tip is not clearly described, but as
Sir John Evans has remarked, it would be difficult to find wood hard enough
1 E. B. Tylor, Anahuac, pp. 95-101 and
331 ; G. G. MacCurdy, The Obsidian liazor
of the Azlecs (in American Anihropologitft,
N~.S. ii. 1900, pp. 417-421).
2 MacCurdy, op. ei/, p. 421.
3 Perrot and Chipiez, vi. Fig. 381. Plut-
arcli, Oleom. 9.
* Tylor, Anahuac, p. 331, Evans, Ancienl
Stone [mp/einents (1897), pp. 23, 24.