Sparkles From The Deep
Glass – Marking
There is archaeological support for the thesis that the making of glass beads
emerged towards the end of three thousand BC, in the Early Bronze Age. Glazed
ceramics played an important role in the production of this early glass. The
first glass was found in the excavations of the region of Hurrae-Mitanne. These
priform wares, dated to the middle of the second century BC, were made by
core-forming of molten glass. This special glassware, made by casting and
cutting, was among the most important of that period. These were made for
religious purposes, as were the figurines of Astarte, made by mold-casting
between 16th -13th century BC in the north of Syria. Egypt is another area where
Late Bronze Age glass was found. Glass was produced in Egypt after the 14th
century BC; ointment and incense vessels decorated the tombs of the Pharaohs of
the New Kingship Age. In addition, the Egyptian glass industry produced beads,
pendats and repousse wors for decorative purposes. The glass ingots and Mycenean
beads of Kaş, found in the Uluburun shipwreck, were dated to the middle of
second century BC and have played a major role in showing us the production and
trade routes, as well as the raw materials and glass-making methods of that age.
It seems that glass production stopped for a period of time at the beginnings
of the first century BC. After this dark age, glass production started again in
a small way in the region of Syria-Philistine. Tablets with instructions for
glass-making were found in the palace of Assurbanipal (Leo Oppenheim, 1973,
p.259-266). It is known that the glass was used in Phoenicia as inlay on ivory
in the 8th century BC (C.Lightfoot, 1992, p.2). Core-formed and cut glass
vessels appeared in the 8th -7th century BC. Some special vessels, including the
dinose, a ceremonial palace cup, reveal that the Assyrians had produced glass in
Nimrut. One of the most famous vessels from this period is the so-called Sargon
Vase. An etched bowl, made by mold-casting and found in the Tumulus P at
Gordion, it is one of the rarest and important vases to have been imported into
Anatolia (A. von Saldern, Glass Artifacts at Gordion, JGS I 1959, 24). Glassware
found in the cities of Assur, Megiddo, Mari and Nimrud in the north of
Mesopotamia was made by imitating rock crystals and valuable stones. Traditional
production techniques, like core-forming, appeared again.
Some kohl containers, along with alabastron and amphorisco containers were
produced in the 5th and 4th century BC. Known in Arabic as sürme, or kohl-tubes,
they were found mostly in Syria and northwestern Iran. Specific to this period
and rare among glass collections are the grotesque pendants, made by the
core-forming technique, which were probably used for religious purposes. They
were mostly made in Kartaca, North Africa and in the region around
There are many types of glass which were made in the workshops of the
Achamenid palaces in Persepolis during the Ancient and Classical Ages. This
shows us that glass-makers worked under the patronage of the palace, as was the
case in northern Mesopotamia. It is thought that the bowls and colorless glass
vessels, made by casting and cutting, were produced as imitations of silver ware
in Persian workshops. Some smaller items that irritated ceramic were made in the
Ancient and Classical Ages. They included small perfume and ointment bottles,
decorated with semi-opaque, multi-colored glass threads. It is thought that
these containers, which are seen commonly in and around the Mediterranean and
northern Black Sea, were produced in the eastern Mediterranean region and in
Rhodes. They were left in tombs as funeral presents.
The most important find having to do with glass-making was certainly a glass
workshop, dated to 6th century BC, which was found in a Lydian house in Sardis
(see. C.Lightfoot, 1992, p.8-9). Lightfoot believes that Sardis, in Anatolia, is
where the first glass production was done.
Glass was again very rare and valuable in the Hellenistic period, but as
production techniques developed and demands for the product increased, glass
began to spread more widely, with the help of trade and market connections.
Small bottles still were produced by core-forming and bowls by mold-casting. The
mosaic glass and golden-banded techniques were especially common. It is known
that there were very active workshops in Syria-Philistine and Alexandria, Egypt
and that the items produced there were taken to west. Some additional workshops
were set up in Italy. The free-blowing technique, perhaps the most important
discovery of the Late Hellenistic period, was first used in the region of
Syria-Philistine during the second half of the first century. With this
technique, a gob of glass on the end of a blowing pipe is blown into either a
free design or a mold. This constituted a giant leap forward in the history of
glass-making. After this discovery, glass was able to be produced much easily
and much more cheaply than in previous periods.
Strabon (63 BC-22 AD), an ancient writer and historian, reports that glass
was produced in Rome and Campania, as well as in Alexandria and Sidon. Pliny
(23-79 AD) also tells us about an important production center in Syria, as well
as mentioning the one in Campaina.
Information about the beginnings of glass-blowing techniques can also be
obtained from archaeological evidence. One blown-glass bottle, which belongs to
the 1st century BC, was found in a grave during excavations on the western shore
of the Dead Sea in Israel. This bottle is supposedly one of the first and oldest
specimens of blown-glass. Blown-glass found in an old cistern in one of the old
towns in Jerusalem was dated to the beginning of the second half of the 1st
century BC, with help from the coins of Alexander Iannios (D.B. Harden, 1988,
p.87-91). The important production centers of that age were Jerusalem, Sidon and
Tyros in Syria, and Alexandria in Egypt. Production was taken to the west by
glass-makers, and glass-workshops were set up in Italy, especially in Rome and
Campania. The glass-workshops spread first to North Italy and later to central
Europe. In the active work shops of Rein in the Roman Imperial Period, several
special items were produced.
Many types of products were produced in the Roman Imperial Period using the
blow-pipe technique, including dinnerware, gifts, cosmetic containers, medicine
bottles, ornaments, wall panels for interior decorating, mosaic floors, small
statues, medallions, window panes, and mirrors. Dishes and containers had a
special place, however. Roman Period containers done by the blow-pipe technique
were decorated in different ways. Bottles and cups produced by mold-blowing had
raised-relief scenes of gladiatorial fights or circus, or faces or symbols.
Free-blown containers had simpler ornamentation. Along with wheel-cutting, other
decorative techniques, such as draping of threads, scattering, stamping and
pressing were used. With the cutting technique, rings and cameos were created.
These glass products were produced in different workshops to serve the needs of
all classes of people. Factories worked continuously and sent products to other
Glass from the region of Rein and the workshops of Colonia (Köln) had become
very famous by the 2nd century AD, and remained so until the 4th -5th century
AD. Colonia workshops become famous for snake-threads and for a cut-engraved
glass, called diatreta. Excavations revealed that there were local
glass-workshops in the Roman colony of Augusta Rauricorum. Glassware for daily
use was produced in small wooden houses in this city and luxury products were
exported. We learned from excavations in this city that the middle class had
glass dinnerware and that glass was used for the windows of their workshops
(see. Beat Rutti, 1991, p.324-328).
Large numbers of both single-colored and multi-colored mosaic products were
produced in the Roman Imperial Period. Light blue and green-colored products
were the most common, though blue, bright green and yellow were also used. Glass
can be shaped easily when it is in molten form, but there are some precautions
that must be taken when shaping. If care is not taken, problems will occur, such
as cracking if the mixture cools too quickly. The shape is formed by blowing.
The worked glass is attached to a pontil and the handle, rim, and decorations
are added later. The final stage is the cleaning and retouching of the vessels.
Traditions in glass-making remained stable over time. As time went by,
imitations of old products were made. Production techniques were kept secret. It
is thought that glassware for daily use in the Roman Imperial Period was made by
itinerant masters, as well as by settled factories and workshops. (see
C.Lightfoot, 1992, p.6).
There had to have been some production centers in Anatolia, because glass was
produced in Egypt, Syria and Cyprus during the Roman Imperial period. But there
is no archaeological evidence of these centers, except for that of Sardis. This
is perhaps due to the fact that many glass factories were in wooden buildings.
It is also known that itinerant masters produced glass.
Local glass production was present in Anatolia in the Early Roman Imperial
period. It is thought that there were some production centers, especially in the
ancient cities like Sardis and Pergamon, in the region of Aegean. On the other
hand, it is impossible to prove the existence of glass production in any place
other than Iassos, in the region of Karia. (see. Levi, D. 1986, p.87-93)
However, glass was imported in the Early Roman Imperial Period and it is
believed that local production become common during the Middle Roman Imperial
Period (2nd -3rd century AD). We learn from inscriptions in Afyon and
Aphrodisias that ingot was imported to Anatolia during the time of Emperor
Diocletian (the 4th century AD). Two different prices for glass from Alexandria
and Judea are recorded on inscriptions, known as the Tariff of Diocletian (see.
C.Lightfoot, 1989, p.89). It is difficult, but not impossible to describe local
glass production in the Roman Imperial Period. For example, the inscribed Dinar
bowls are believed to have originated in Anatolia (see. D.B. Harden, 1988,