Neolithic People Used Quartz Rock Crystals at Their Burial Sites

Archaeologists have discovered that Neolithic people might have used a rare transparent type of quartz known as rock crystal to decorate graves and ceremonial site structures in western England. The rock crystals may have been brought to the site from a faraway source, likely more than 80 miles away. They appear to have been broken down into much smaller pieces, possibly during a community gathering, and with great care. It’s likely the crystals looked like a magical material to the people at the time.

Using the Rock Crystals Was a Rare Event for the Neolithic People

According to Nick Overton, an archaeologist at The University of Manchester in England, the use of the rock crystals could be viewed as a really special event because it felt like the Neolithic people were putting a lot of emphasis on the practice of working the crystals. It was, therefore, logical that people would’ve remembered it as being something distinctive and different. Overton is the lead author of a study that describes the discovery of over 300 quartz crystal fragments at a 6,000-year-old ceremonial site located at Dorstone Hill in western England. The crystal fragments are almost as transparent as water, and several of them are prismatic and capable of splitting white light into a rainbow spectrum.

The Rock Crystals Have Fascinating Properties and Are Quite Rare

The rock crystals are triboluminescent, meaning that bashing two of them together will make them emit little flashes of blue light, a process that must have fascinated the people of the time. Working on the crystals must have been a magnificent experience for them, especially considering that in this period, there was no glass nor any other solid transparent materials. Analysis has suggested that the large crystals were knapped expertly, but the fragments were not formed into tools. Instead, the tiny chips were deposited at structures at the site, more notably over the burial mounds.

Scientists Still Don’t Know Where the Crystals Originated

The largest piece found so far was 1.3 inches in length, and it gives the researchers a good idea of how big the original rock crystals must’ve been. This could help them narrow down their origin. The scientists could also conduct chemical tests using the fragments to reveal a geological signature and show them where they came from.

Neolithic People Used Quartz Rock Crystals at Their Burial SitesCurrently, the 337 fragments from Dorstone Hill are the largest collection of worked rock crystal pieces discovered in Britain or Ireland. There are also records of the quartz rock crystal pieces being found at other Neolithic burial sites in both Britain and Ireland, but those were mostly overlooked until now. It seems that now scientists will look at those once more, considering the data from the recent discovery.