Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection

BLUE ROMAN GLASS BOTTLE AND THE EIN GEDI VESSEL

Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on January 13, 2021

R17 Blue Roman Bottle of The Allaire Collection

Date: Early first century, Size H: 13 cm

 

Description: This beautiful deep blue Roman glass bottle follows the very popular trend for colored glass during the First Century. Blown paper thin into a simple yet elegant shape, it has an elongated globular body and tall neck ending in cracked off fire polished rim precisely worked. The bottle was amazingly repaired using mostly the original pieces.

Ref: Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum, John Hayes, 1975 #115, Ancient and Islamic Glass, Paris, Loudmer, Kevorkian 1985 #149

Remarks:

Until about 50 B.C. glass objects could only be made slowly due to the limited techniques available. One bottle could take several days to make via casting or cutting techniques. Core-formed objects may have taken 45 minutes to create. Glass furnace technology was such that only small amounts of glass could be made at one time. Because it was difficult and time-consuming to make, glass was a luxury item as rare as gold or precious stones.  Around 300 BC the Syrians invented the iron blowpipe.  But why someone thought you could blow a glass bubble with it is a mystery.  It may have been a Jeweler who used the blowpipe in his craft. Most likely it was an accident.

The situation quickly changed with the discovery of glassblowing in about 50 B.C. Romans, probably in Phoenicia (now the region of modern Lebanon), discovered that an object could be formed by gathering molten glass on the end of a pipe and inflating it. The glass could then be shaped into nearly any form with simple tools. By about 50 A.D., glassblowers knew how to blow glass into hollow molds to form even more innovative shapes.

In addition to the advancement of glassblowing, glassworkers also had the benefit of new glass furnace technology. One known excavated tank furnace could melt up to 40 tons of glass at one time! Compare this with the size of the glass ingots coming from Egyptian furnaces beforehand, which were only a few pounds.

As with earlier methods of glassmaking in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece, the Roman glassmaker and the glassworker were working in two separate trades. Glassmakers would melt the glass, allow it to harden and cool in the tank, and then break it into chunks to ship to glassworkers. These glassworkers would then remelt the chunks at a lower temperature and fashion glass objects.

For the first time, because of the abundance of material and the new technique of glassblowing, a glassworker could produce dozens of objects per day.

Another advantage the Roman glassblower enjoyed was the potential market of the seemingly endless Roman Empire, including modern-day Europe, North Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean. Blown glass was now quickly made, affordable, and easily attainable.

What did these first glass-blown vessel or bottle look like?

No one knows for sure. We are suggesting that perhaps these first blown bottles look something like R 17 above.  Later Roman blown bottle came with a more restricted neck. The inspiration for this thought came from a demonstration by William Gudenrath and his three-minute Roman glass bottle.  Mr. Gudenrath is (Resident Advisor for the Corning Museum of Glass) a glassblower, scholar, author, lecturer, and teacher. He is recognized internationally as one of the foremost authorities on glassmaking techniques of the ancient world through the 18th century. He has spent many decades studying specific works in glass in an attempt to determine how they were made. As such, he was monikered the “glass detective” by the Associated Press. This is an active link to that demonstration. In this older clip a pontil was use to make the bottle.  In a later demonstration Bill uses a simple clamplike device (sometimes called a “snap” or “gadget”) to finish to rim.

 

Later First-Century B.C. Evidence from the Judean Desert the Ein Gedi bottle

The Ein Gedi bottle. Mid-first century B.C. H. about 12.7 cm. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem/by Peter Lany.

 

A small, thin, long-necked bottle of transparent slightly greenish yellow glass was found near Ein Gedi in Israel’s Judean Desert in 1961 (Fig. 4). I was allowed to handle and study the piece in 2008, and I can confirm that it was certainly made by glassblowing. The bottle has a surprisingly early date: mid-first century B.C., according to a 1983 publication by Nahman Avigad. More recently, the date has been moved forward somewhat.

The Ein Gedi Bottle Video shows the rim being finished while the vessel is held with a simple clamplike device (sometimes called a “snap” or “gadget”). During this procedure, the bottle can still be hot, having just been broken free of the blowpipe, or it can be at room temperature well after annealing. The pontil is arguably a slightly later invention, because the earliest blown vessels are without pontil marks.

A small, thin, long-necked bottle of transparent slightly greenish yellow glass was found near Ein Gedi in Israel’s Judean Desert in 1961 (Fig. 4). I was allowed to handle and study the piece in 2008, and I can confirm that it was certainly made by glassblowing. The bottle has a surprisingly early date: mid-first century B.C., according to a 1983 publication by Nahman Avigad. More recently, the date has been moved forward somewhat.

The Ein Gedi Bottle Video shows the rim being finished while the vessel is held with a simple clamplike device (sometimes called a “snap” or “gadget”). During this procedure, the bottle can still be hot, having just been broken free of the blowpipe, or it can be at room temperature well after annealing. The pontil is arguably a slightly later invention, because the earliest blown vessels are without pontil marks. Active link to a demonstration of how the Ein Gedi bottle thought to be made.

 

This an active link to an additional lecture on Roman glass and the Roman glass making Ennion by Bill Gudenrath.

 

Some of this information is from papers published by the Corning Museum of Glass and from their Web site.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: