Dragonglass: Obsidian in Popular Culture

September 23, 2016 Posted by: Molly Malone, 2016 Archives Intern

Obsidian CliffObsidian Cliff, located on the west-side of Yellowstone National Park between Mammoth and Norris is one of the most unique places one can see while visiting the park. The cliff has a long and interesting history dating back thousands of years for the Sheepeaters, one of the many Native American tribes to inhabit the area, used the resource for a lot of their basic needs. Even today, many areas across North America can find traces of the substance that originally came from the park. While the Native American tribes used the stone for weapons, ornaments, and other tools, reference of the material has made its way into a lot of popular culture – not to mention that it is used world-wide for a number of different things in various cultures. Obsidian is known to have certain healing properties in some cultures and can even be used in feng shui to balance and ground a home environment. It has also been known to be used in knives and scalpels, because of its sharpness and the ability for the substance to become thinner than even a surgical steel scalpel. It has also been used in audio turntables for about forty or so years. More recently in the video game Minecraft, the substance can be mined with a diamond pickaxe and then built into a rectangular or square shape to gain access to the Nether – an underworld where more exotic materials and enemies can be found. Obsidian is also referenced in the immensely popular book series and television show The Game of Thrones, where it is found by the character Jon Snow and is used against the impending enemies of the North. Obsidian is known as Dragonglass throughout the series because of the presence of dragons, which in reality connects to the fact that obsidian forms due to the quick cooling of volcanic lava. Considering the Yellowstone National Park sits on top of the world’s most active thermal features, known as the Yellowstone hotspot, it is no surprise that Dragonglass in the book/television series would come from the breathing of fire by dragons. All in all, Obsidian Cliff demonstrates that not only can a desirable resource make its way all across the country but it can, in fact become a desirable resource, even in fiction.

For more information on Obsidian Cliff in Yellowstone National Park see The Obsidian Cliff Plateau, Prehistoric Lithic Source with call number 978.752 D262 at Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner Montana. 

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Last updated: September 23, 2016

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