Central to Mayan technology was the profound use of a special stone, known as Obsidian . In ancient Mexican culture this stone was called Itzli, literally the god of stone, as it was used to make weapons for war as well as cutting tools for everyday use .
How might the Maya have used obsidian ? The maya used ocsidian to make weapons (stated in the paragraphs under warfare) and for trade. Maya cities usually fought each other for land and power.
And the Aztecs had obsidian for their axes and knives. Obsidian is a naturally-occurring glass, usually black and opaque. Aztec swords were made with rows of small obsidian teeth. They were murderous weapons for cutting an enemy.
The ancient Maya created a host of items with obsidian , some of which involved cutting. For example, they made projectile points. For another, they made blades, including a type known as the prismatic blade.
Examine the general appearance of obsidian . It has a distinctive smooth glassy appearance. Obsidian is really a frozen liquid with small amounts of mineral impurities. Look at the color.
Can Obsidian cut through steel ? Obsidian at Moh’s scale hardness in the 5 range is harder than most steel (4-4.5, vs. hardened steels that can go upwards of 7), but is too brittle to survive the mechanical stress involved in directly cutting steel (like a knife), even bringing in scission (scissors action).
Obsidian is quite unique due to its smooth , uniform volcanic glass texture. Obsidian is usually considered an extrusive rock, because it usually solidifies above Earth’s surface where the edges of a lava flow come into contact with cool air or water. Geologists call the way obsidian breaks a conchoidal fracture.
Obsidian is found in many locations worldwide where there has been recent volcanic activity. It is rare to find obsidian that is extremely old, as it is destroyed quickly by the weather. Obsidian is quite a fragile stone, rating a 5.5 on Moh’s hardness scale. It can be easily chipped or broken on impact.
Obsidian played an important role in the transmission of Neolithic knowledge and experiences. The material was mainly used for production of chipped tools which were very sharp due to its nature. Artifacts made of obsidian can be found in many Neolithic cultures across Europe.
Surprisingly, the edge of a piece of obsidian is superior to that of a surgeon’s steel scalpel. It is 3 times sharper than diamond and between 500-1000 times sharper than a razor or a surgeon’s steel blade resulting in easier incisions and fewer microscopic ragged tissue cuts. Obsidian is found all over the world.
Natural obsidian is a pretty terrible substance to make a durable weapon with, but there are other ” obsidian like” materials that could work. ” Obsidian like” being glass with impurities “It’s not the strongest material ever made, but it’s certainly one of the best with a combination of strength and toughness.”
For the Maya , who did not have metal tools, obsidian (or volcanic glass ) was highly valued because of its sharp edges for use as cutting instruments. The shift in trade might have involved more than obsidian.
There were Aztec garrisons on the Maya frontier, and very likely plans to attack. But then the Aztecs themselves were attacked – by the Spaniards. However, if by “the Aztecs” we can include surviving warriors from the regions of Mexico that were part of the Aztec Empire, then the answer is yes.
Maya stelae were worked with stone chisels and probably with wooden mallets. Hammerstones were fashioned from flint and basalt and were used for shaping the softer rocks used to make stelae, while fine detail was completed with smaller chisels.
The Mayans had both long-distance weapons and melee weapons. The long distance ones included bow and arrow , blowgun, slings and throwing spears . When the atlatl or spear thrower was brought to the Mayans from Teotihuacan around 400 A.D., it was quickly adopted and became the Mayans’ dominant long distance weapon.