Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on February 15, 2019

A universally accepted terminology of ancient glass shapes does not exist.  So wrote E. Marianne Stern in the book Roman, Byzantine, and Early Medieval Glass, Ernesto Wolf Collection 10 BCE-700 CE, publishers Hatje Cantz, 2001. The rest of this post is based on this book and Stern’s writing.

In the following post of terminology, Greek and Latin names are used sparingly. Where possible, an English name is preferred and the terminology is followed by a picture or pictures illustrating the term.


Amphora: A special form of jug with two handles.

MINIATURE AMPHORA of Hans van Rossum


Aryballos: A bath bottle for cleansing oil.


Askos: A vessel imitating the shape of a wine-skin.

ROMAN ASKOS of Nico F. Bijnsdorp


Beaker: An open-shaped vessel that is taller than it is wide.  Usually, but not always a drinking vessel.

Bottle: A sizable vessel with a neck, with or without handles.  The mouth is usually made so it can be closed tightly.  The body can be barrel-shaped, cylindrical, spherical, square, or prismatic.  Usually for storage and transport; sometimes for serving liquids at the table.  Special shapes are, Frontinus bottle, Lenticular bottle, Spouted bottle. Small bottles are called unguentaria.

Bowl: An open-shaped vessel that is wider than it is tall. Usually for serving or presenting food, sometimes for drinking; in the East also for lighting.  Special shapes include Zarte Rippenschale.

Cone: An open conical vessel ending in a point. Usually used in the West for drinking and in the East for lighting.

Cup: An open-shaped vessel that is about as tall as it is wide. Usually for drinking, but sometimes lidded and used as a jar.  Special shapes include goblet, Hofheium cup, modiolus.

Dish: A flat or shallow bowl.  Usually for serving or presenting food.

Flask:  A vessel with a neck but without handles. The mouth is usually not made for closing.  The body is usually bulbous. Usually tableware, for serving liquids.

Goblet: A stemmed, footed cup.  Usually used for drinking.  In Eastern Mediterranean commonly used as an oil lamp with a floating wick.

Jar: Two types of jars 1 and 2.

(1) A vessel with a wide rim but without neck.  The body can be bulbous or square. Usually for storage of foods. Special shapes include: urn.

(2) The commonest form of the Eastern Mediterranean jar has a funnel neck which is actually a tall, flaring mouth.  The body is usually bulbous, less frequently cylindrical: it can have functional handles, multiple decorative handles or a pattern trailing attached to the rim.  These jars were probably tableware for serving foods.



Jug: An elaborate flask usually with handle. The mouth can be round, trefoil or spouted. Usually for serving wine or other liquids at the table. Special shapes include: amphora see top of this page.

Kohl tube: A tubular container for kohl, a black eye paint used widely in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine.

Lenticular bottle: A bottle with flattened section.

Modiolus: A one-handled cup.

Modiolus From The Windmill Collection of Roman Glass

Sprinkler:  Any vessel with an internal diaphragm at the base of the neck


Urn: A burial jar for cremation ashes which may be lidded. The body is usually bulbous.  Many burial urns have two heavy coil handles, often M-shaped.

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