5,000 Years Ago, an Ancient Culture in Europe Crafted Intricate Crystal Weapons

Among the objects included in this study are along dagger blade, twenty-five arrowheads and a core, all of which form the most technically sophisticated and esthetically impressive collection of rock crystal material culture ever found in Prehistoric Iberia.


More than 5,000 years ago, ancient people in Europe built intricate blades, knives, and arrowheads using crystals as their main source.

A study published in 2015 details the discovered made in Spain by a group of archeologists who excavated a long dagger blade, twenty-five arrowheads as well as a core made out of crystal.

Archaeologists argue that whoever crafted the ancient weapons must have possessed great skills and knowledge.

It is estimated that the crystal weapons excavated at the megalithic tombs in the locality of Valencina de la Concepción, in Southwestern Spain date back to the year 3,000 B.C, considered one of the largest 3rd millennium BC sites in Western Europe.

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Objects studied in this paper. A: Ontiveros arrowheads; B: Montelirio tholos arrowheads; C: PP4-Montelirio dagger blade (Structure 10.049); D: Montelirio tholos core; E:PP4-Montelirio knapping debris (from UE-345 on the left and UE-919 on the right); F: PP4-Montelirio micro-blades (from Structure 10.015 on the left and Structure 10.043 on the right); G: Montelirio tholos microblades. Image Credit: Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia.
Objects studied in this paper. A: Ontiveros arrowheads; B: Montelirio tholos arrowheads; C: PP4-Montelirio dagger blade (Structure 10.049); D: Montelirio tholos core; E:PP4-Montelirio knapping debris (from UE-345 on the left and UE-919 on the right); F: PP4-Montelirio micro-blades (from Structure 10.015 on the left and Structure 10.043 on the right); G: Montelirio tholos microblades. Photograph: Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia.

The weapons were discovered in a series of megalithic tombs that extend nearly 44 meters in total, called the Montelirio tholos. The tombs were built out of large slabs of slate.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of 25 people inside the tombs, and it is believed that all of the people owned the weapons collectively, meaning that they did not belong to one individual specifically.

Inside the various tombs, archaeologists have reportedly found a plethora of different artifacts including “an extraordinary set of sumptuous grave goods…the most notable of which is an unspecified number of shrouds or clothes made of tens of thousands of perforated beads and decorated with amber beads.”

Arrowheads from the Montelirio tholos (selection). Image Credit: Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia.
Arrowheads from the Montelirio tholos (selection). Image Credit: Miguel Angel Blanco de la Rubia.

But the intricate crystal arrowheads discovered inside the tombs was the most incredible part of the find.

Researchers hail the artifacts as “the most technically sophisticated and aesthetically impressive collection of rock crystal material culture ever found.”

In a tomb dubbed as 10.042-10.049—also built from slate slab–archeologists reportedly found the remains of a young individual surrounded by a large set of grave woods, including an undecorated elephant tusk placed above the young man’s head, as well as a collection of 23 flint blades, and various ivory objects.

“The rock crystal dagger blade appeared in the upper level of Structure 10.049 of the PP4-Montelirio sector, in association with an ivory hilt and sheath, which renders it an exceptional object in Late Prehistoric Europe.”

“The blade is 214 mm in length, a maximum of 59 mm in width and 13 mm thick. Its morphology is not unheard of in the Iberian Peninsula, although all the samples recorded thus far were made from flint and not rock crystal,” wrote experts.

Archaeologists note that despite the fact that the crystal weapons are of similar shape as flint arrowheads common in the area during the time, the fact that the weapons were crafted using crystal is extraordinary, as it would have required a much higher ability to produce the items.

Furthermore, scientists note that there aren’t any crystal mines anywhere near where the weapons were found, which suggests that whoever crafted the weapons must have traveled long distances to acquire the material needed for the weapons and tools.

Furthermore, given the fact that crystal weapons were rare at the time, it is most likely that their owner most likely belonged to an elite group of people.

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