From Shifting Silt to Solid Stone: The Manufacture of Synthetic Basalt in Ancient Mesopotamia

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Science  26 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5372, pp. 2091-2093
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5372.2091

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Slabs and fragments of gray-black vesicular “rock,” superficially resembling natural basalt but distinctive in chemistry and mineralogy, were excavated at the second-millennium B.C. Mesopotamian city of Mashkan-shapir, about 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, Iraq. Most of this material appears to have been deliberately manufactured by the melting and slow cooling of local alluvial silts. The high temperatures (about 1200°C) required and the large volume of material processed indicate an industry in which lithic materials were manufactured (“synthetic basalt”) for grinding grain and construction.

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