Glass - Marking

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 Syria-Philistine.

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 markets.

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, p.203-204).