Armenia’s Stone-Age Arms Industry


High-tech archaeology has revealed that millions of obsidian artifacts, unearthed from the Aegean to Crimea, were made at a Paleolithic “factory” in the Caucasus. (Nat Geo News)

Use our resources to take a look at an obsidian artifact unearthed a little closer to home.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”

Ah, obsidian! This big, beautiful projectile point was discovered near central Ohio's Hopewell mounds. Photograph courtesy the National Park Service
Ah, obsidian! This big, beautiful projectile point was discovered near central Ohio’s Hopewell mounds.
Photograph courtesy the National Park Service

Discussion Ideas


  • Was Arteni limited to Neanderthal craftsmen?
    • No. Ancient communities of modern humans continued to mine and produce material at the site until about 1000 BCE.


  • The tools manufactured in the Caucasus’ Stone Age “factory” were made of obsidian. What is obsidian?


  • Why was obsidian so important to Paleolithic craftsmen in Arteni and elsewhere?


  • Besides weapons, what other obsidian tools were crafted at Arteni?
    • Blades, hand axes, scrapers, and chisels were produced at Arteni. These tools may have been used for cooking, clearing trees or brush, or creating other tools. Blades, arrowheads, and spearheads were the main weapons produced.


  • Read through our “Obsidian Spear Point” media spotlight. Apply its three short questions to the Nat Geo News article on the ancient Armenian armory.
    • What other materials did ancient humans use to create projectile points and other tools?
      • Other stones, such as basalt and flint, were commonly used to make Stone Age tools. Animal bones were also used by Paleolithic communities.
    • What materials eventually replaced stone for making projectile points and other tools?
      • Metals, such as copper, iron, and bronze, were harder and longer-lasting than stone tools.
    • What animals do you think prehistoric people hunted with this type of spear?
      • Neanderthals actually rarely used projectile points such as arrowheads or spears that were thrown. They were much more likely to ambush large prey, such as deer and perhaps even aurochs—an extinct species of wild cattle famously depicted in Stone Age cave paintings. Later communities at Arteni probably used the arrowheads and spearheads produced on site.


  • The Nat Geo News article says obsidian artifacts unearthed from Ukraine to the Aegean were produced at Arteni. How do they know this?
    • Technology! A portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometer can analyze an artifact’s chemical composition in ten seconds—without pulverizing it. The obsidian’s precise chemical composition can pinpoint its location to a single lava vein in a specific volcano. Mount Arteni is a long-extinct volcano with a specific chemical “fingerprint.”




Nat Geo: Digs Reveal Stone-Age Weapons Industry With Staggering Output

Nat Geo: Obsidian Spear Point

Nat Geo: Why Am I Neanderthal?

The Field Museum: Portable X-ray Fluorescence (PXRF)

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