New research brings to light evidence of the sophistication of ancient cultures. It seems that communities from thousands of years ago used high quantities of crystal quartz to manufacture their tools. According to scientists, the number of small-sized devices of less than 1 cm increased 14,000 years ago in southern Africa.
Crystal quartz is difficult to process, and other materials would have been much more natural to use, for example, Chet, a material that could easily be obtained in that region, but ancient cultures believed in the powerful symbolism of the mineral.
Even more, crystal quartz has several unique characteristics, including the ability to serve as a source of light when struck. Although this mineral is brittle and can quickly be shattered, it can offer sharp and precise cutting edges, which was an advantage. The cultures present in southern Africa back then also believed that some materials, including crystal quartz, possessed the power to predict the future.
Crystal Quartz Was A Valued Material For Ancient Southern African Cultures
The study is backed up by the archaeological findings on two sites in different environments, in Sehonghong and Ntloana Tsoana. More than 75% of the discovered utensils were made of crystal quartz. The two sites are 100 km apart, so the similar findings suggest that the hunter-gatherer communities were connected and interacting.
“We found stone tools became smaller and smaller, there was a spike in their use, and increasingly they were made of crystal quartz instead of chert, which would have been a more readily available rock. We can’t say for sure why crystal quartz was used, but it may have been chosen for its unique symbolic qualities. This shows communities were more sophisticated and thoughtful than they were previously given credit for.”
Other pieces of evidence, like ethnographic texts and rock paintings, show that ancient cultures performed rituals in which they repeatedly hit crystal quartz pieces to generate sparks that induced a hallucinogenic state to those who were watching. Scientists believed this practice was meant to alter their state of consciousness and grant them access into the spiritual realm.