The how and where of Roman age glassmaking

May 3, 2012

( -- An EU-funded interdisciplinary study has contributed a deeper understanding of glass production in Italy in the Roman age.

The project ‘The provenance of mosaic tesserae: an interdisciplinary study on Roman age glass production and trade in Italy’ (Promote) contributed knowledge and offered possible answers to open questions surrounding the Roman age glassmaking industry. An existing reconstruction of the economic model of ancient glass production, focusing on Italy and vitreous mosaic tesserae materials dating from 3rd century BC to 2nd century AD, has been advanced on the basis of archaeological and archaeometric literature. Hypothesising a three-phase productive system, information was lacking on the location of the primary productive centres and trading routes.

The EU-funded study worked to improve knowledge of ancient vitreous materials and develop a work procedure for applying trace and isotope analysis to the ancient glasses, as well as clarify the origin of the Roman age glasses in Italy. Integrating archaeological fieldwork with analytical characterisation of glass samples, research was successful in a number of areas.

Observation of wall and floor mosaics helped unfold a chronology of the vitreous materials used by mosaicists during the period under study. The identification of certain vitreous materials made it possible to date mosaics.

The work protocol developed was tested in the laboratory for characterisation of the glasses. Based on the principle of analysis selection suited to solving archaeological problems, the research schedule gave priority to the application of non-destructive and micro-destructive techniques.

Interpretation of the lead, neodymium and strontium isotope analysis helped realise the overall aim of the project with analytical investigation clarifying that glasses used in as Roman mosaic tesserae are comparable to raw glasses and glass vessels that circulated in the peninsula at that time. Analysis of the materials also helped prove the hypothesis that there existed few production centres, which were active for at least four centuries.

Promote activities and outcomes had a major impact both in terms of scientific results and training activity. The highly innovative data produced contributes a more in-depth understanding of the subject and the methodology developed is applicable to study of other glass artefacts from different historical periods.

Explore further: A 2,000-year-old secret is out

Related Stories

A 2,000-year-old secret is out

March 9, 2005

A beauty product with a difference will be put to the test in a unique experiment at Bristol University later this month. A 2,000-year-old Roman cosmetic, discovered in an archaeological site in London, will be recreated ...

Origins of Pompeii-style artefacts examined at ISIS

February 20, 2009

( -- Roman artefacts which are nearly two thousand years old with similarities to ancient remains found at Pompeii in Italy will be examined at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s ISIS neutron source ...

Fast-tracking the manufacture of glasses

June 29, 2010

Old glass is not the same as new glass -- and the difference is not just due to manufacturing techniques. Unlike crystalline solids, glasses change as they age, increasing packing density and stability. Ideally, a glass should ...

Mosaics provide missing pieces to popular ancient plays

January 4, 2011

At the Jan. 6-9 meeting of the American Philological Association, Classics Professor Kathryn Gutzwiller will present her research on recently discovered mosaics depicting lost scenes from four Greek plays popular in Roman ...

History shines through the glass

June 14, 2011

“All glass is beautiful,” Belgian researcher Patrick Degryse said, gently turning a delicate, Roman-era vessel, its bluish sheen glowing under the fluorescent lights of the Semitic Museum’s basement collections.

Glass from the past informs decisions for the future

March 16, 2012

A new investment at the Department of Energy’s EMSL is now being used in an international effort to study 1,800-year-old pieces of glass from a Roman shipwreck and ruin. The primary goal of the research is not archaeological; ...

Recommended for you

Chimpanzees shed light on origins of human walking

October 6, 2015

A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking. The results, reported ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.