Glass of The Region of Karia

Sparkles From The Deep

Glass of The Region of Karia

Karia is a mountainous region in southwest Anatolia, which is home to the Kar and Leleg people.

Herodotos, the father of history, (484-425 BC) wrote: “The Karians came to this continent from the islands. They used to live on the Leleg Islands and are of the civilization of Minoen”. He adds that the Karians reject this opinion, insisting: “We are natives of the continent”. This region is surrounded by Ionia, Phrygia and Lycia. It is bounded on the north by the Great Menderes (Maiandros) Lake and on the south by modern-day Köyceğiz Lake. (Ord.Prof.Dr. Ekrem Akurgal, Anadolu Uygarlıkları, Istanbul, 1988, p.474; George E.Bean, Karia, Istanbul 1987; Oğuz Alpözen, Bodrum, Antik Halikarnassos, Ankara 1995).


Karia was united with the Lydian Kingdom in the 7th century BC and the first half of 6th century BC. When Kyros conquered Lydia in 546 BC, Karia also came under the rule of the Persians. The Persians brought all of the dynasties in the cities they conquered under their own control.

We learn from Strabon (XIV, 659) that Hekatomnos was the Karian king who was made a ruler by Persia (his death is 377 BC). He had three sons: Mausolos, Idrieus and Pixodaros; and two daughters, Artemisia and Ada. Mausolos, who married his sister Artemisia, was the satrap of Persian, but he had the authority of a king. He participated in the rebellion against the rule of Artaxerxes II Mnemon, and conquered some islands and some important areas of Lydia and Ionia. He moved his capital to Halikarnassos and had a memorial tomb, called the Mausoleion of Halikarnassos one of the Seven Wonders of the World built for himself. The word “mausoleum” has been used to refer to grave monuments ever since, from the Roman Period until now. Artemisia, the wife and sister of Mausolos, was the ruler of Karia after Mausolos’s death. She died shortly after and her brother, Idrieus came to power. Idrieus married his sister Ada, but again, after a few years, he died and his youngest brother Pixodaros took the throne, and had already exiled his sister Ada to Alinda.

Alexander the Great, in his campaign against Persian, quickly conquered the region of Karia in 334 BC. Halikarnassos was one of the few places in Asia where Alexander met resistance. After he conquered the city, he brought Ada (who was on good terms with him) back from Alinda and made her the ruler of all Karia. After the death of Alexander, Karia was united first with the Kingdom of Seleucid and later with the Kingdom of Pergamon (180 BC). Karia was a part of the Asian Province of Roman in 133 BC, and enjoyed two hundred years of general prosperity and contentment under Roman administration. The decline started in the 3rd century AD. Karia was a separate province at first, according to a provincial arrangement with Diocletianus. By the end of century, during the time of Emperor Constantius, Christianity was adopted as the national religion.

There are many important specimens of glass in The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology which were discovered in archaeological excavations made by various universities and scientific institutes. In addition, some of the items on display were purchased.

The earliest specimens on display are the glass ingots found in the excavations of the Kaş-Uluburun shipwreck by a team under the directions of first, Prof.Dr. George F. Bass; and later, Dr. Cemal Pulak of The Institute of Underwater Archaeology, under the auspices of The University of Texas. More than 150 cobalt-blue, turquoise and lavender-colored, flat, round pure glass ingots were found in the excavations that started in 1984 and finished in 1995. They have been dated to the Late Bronze Age; the first half of 14th century BC, which proves that there was a glass-trade from Syria to Aegean in that period.

The finding of more than 150 glass ingots and ingot-fragments in the excavations of Uluburun has led to speculation that these glass pieces were the mekku and ehlipakku stones mentioned in tablets found in the excavations of Tell el Amarna. Two of these glass ingots are on display in the Glass Hall; the others are kept in the storage depots and Iaboratories of The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. In addition to being the oldest glass artifacts in the Museums of Türkiye they are also very important for the information they provide about trade and shipping routes and connections between the East and the West in the 2nd century BC. (G. F. Bass, 1996, p.67; G. F. Bass, 1985, p.619-635; L. Oppenheim, 1973, p.259-266; Cemal Pulak, 1988, p.1-37).

In addition to the glass ingots found in the Uluburun shipwreck excavations, there is one more important find from a land excavation, which has been dated to the 2nd century BC. A total of 33 glass beads were found together with some painted Mycenean ceramics in Cemetery C, Tomb 22 in a Mycenean necropol in Müsgebi near Bodrum. This area was excavated in 1963, under the direction of Prof.Dr. Yusuf Boysal, under the auspices of The Department of Archaeology in DTCF at The University of Ankara. These beads were probably left in a woman’s grave. All the beads have a cord-hole in the upper half. They are rod-shaped, with grooved decorative work on the spiral-shaped middle section, and a seashell-like tip. Similar samples of these beads, which were made by pressing inside a closed mold, have been found in Mycenai, in Thebai in Greece, and in some parts of Crete and Rhodes. Müsgebi beads have been dated to between 1400-1250 BC (Y.Boysal, 1964, p.81-83).

Analysis of samples of glass ingots, made by Robert H. Brill, have indicated some similarities between Egypt bottles and Mycenean beads (G.F. Bass, 1996, p.67; G.F.Bass, 1987, p.693-732).

Information obtained from the second century BC glass collections in the Museum of Bodrum, along with information on production centers, trade routes, and glass-making techniques in the Late Bronze Age suggest that the beads were also used as funeral presents.

There are no glass specimens from the period of time between the second millennium and the Ancient Age in The Museum of Bodrum. The museum does have a few small Ancient and Classical Age Period amphoriscos and alabastrons, which were made by sand-casting.

These have been dated to the 6th -5th century BC. One amhoriscos and one alabastron were found in Milas, the source of another broken amphoriscos is unkown. There is no information available about how they were found. However, because at that time glass was second in importance after very valuable gold, it is reasonable to conclude that these containers were used as funeral gifts (Aristophanes, Akherneis 74).

The excavation artifacts of the Classical collection in The Museum of Bodrum have great significance for the dating and documenting process. One example is the grotesque bird-heads and beads found in the excavations of Mausoleion in 1973, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Kristian Jeppesen of The University of Aarhus, Denmark. The bird-head shaped pendants, made by sand-casting, were found in a garbage pit by the south staircase of the Mausoleion. They originated in Phoenicia and Cartage. These pendants and beads, dated to the Classical Age, were imported from North Africa and Syria to Halikarnassos (S.Goldstein 1979: 38, fig.12). Monique Seefried, as a result of her research, concludes that these products were made in Carthage.

The small glass beads from the tomb of the Karian princess are rare examples of the Classical Age in The Museum of Bodrum. The tomb was found in 1989, near Milas Gate, between the exterior and interior city walls of ancient Halikarnassos in northeastern Bodrum. The sarcophagus contained some ornaments and rings and the skeleton of a 40 year old woman. The woman was probably a princess from the dynasty of Hecatomnides, or a noblewoman from the palace. Some glass beads were also found together with some items of gold. It is possible to see these beads on the waist of the mannequin, which was made in The Manchester University in England and displayed in a special hall in the Bodrum Museum. They are blue in color, opaque, with cord-holes, and were made by mold-casting. Some of them are barley-shaped, but most are astragal, shaped like a double-sided axe. Some golden beads were uncovered along with the glass beads, as if they were part of a set. The double-sided axe, astragal and barley-shaped amulets were most likely used for religious purposes. The double-sided axe were very important for the family of Mausolos. For example, Zeus Labrandeus carries a double-sided axe on the coins of Pixodaros (see Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Caria 1947; Pl.14, fig.595-599).

Glass found in the tomb of the Karian Princess has been dated to the middle of the 4th century BC. (Aykut Özet, 1992, p.101-113). It is supposed that these beads were brought from a center not far from Halikarnassos. The finding of a small workshop in a Lydian house in Sardis, dated to the 6th century BC, proves that glass-production had started in Anatolia during that age (see. C.Lightfoot, 1992, p.8-9). On the other hand, it is possible that the beads of the Karian Princess were produced in Rhodes, which is known to have had important glass workshops in the Classical and Hellenic ages.

It is also interesting that there are very few Hellenistic glass items in the collections of The Museum of Bodrum. An amphoriscos was found in 1986 when a grave was accidentally uncovered during road construction work in Stratonikeia. It was produced in the eastern Mediterranean and brought to southern shore of Anatolia in the 2nd -1st century BC. It is quite likely that it was purchased by a nobleman in the port of Halikarnassos. This ointment bottle, made by the sand-casting method, is made of black glass and decorated with tooled white and yellow threads that form a feather motif.

An aryballos, made by core-forming, was found in Köyceğiz. It cannot be accurately dated, because similar examples have not yet been found, but it may date to the Hellenistic period.

The last glass specimen obtained from the Late Hellenistic period is a green bowl made by the mould-casting method. It was found in the tomb number 3 in Kaunos in 1974, during excavations under the direction of Prof. Dr. Baki Öğün of DTCF, The University of Ankara. These bowls were evidently a continuation of Phrygian bronze bowls and were considered very valuable in the Hellenistic Period. These bowls are known to have been placed in graves for the assuaging of the thirst of dead people. The people of that age believed that the bowls would be filled spontaneously. Studies done on the Classical and Hellenistic artifacts in the Bodrum Museum suggest that some of these items were imported from the eastern Mediterranean and some of them were brought from local areas.