New light shed on history of ancient glass

Related Articles

Related Articles

It’s an everyday material we take for granted but now the secrets of how we came to benefit from the many uses of the most unique of substances… glass, are revealed in a new book by a world-leading archaeologist from The University of Nottingham.

The beautifully illustrated Cambridge University Press volume, ‘Ancient Glass’, by Professor Julian Henderson, is the first monograph of this versatile composite material to combine forensic investigational techniques from both the sciences and the humanities.

The book examines why and how glass came to be invented in the Bronze Age and reveals the ritual, social, economic and political contexts of its development across the world up to the 17th century AD.

Appliance of science

From small glass vessels and glass jewellery of the ancient world to the later mass production of containers after the invention of glass-blowing and the production of cathedral and church windows, glass objects have been used for a variety of functions for at least 3,500 years.

Julian Henderson’s investigations also include a detailed scientific exploration of the provenances of ancient glass using isotopic evidence for the first production of late Bronze Age glass and its trade in the Mediterranean. This part of the research was featured in the prestigious academic journal, Science, and was Editor’s Choice in that edition… no mean feat for a Humanities-based subject.

Illuminating ancient societies

Professor Henderson, an expert in innovative techniques in the analysis of archaeological materials, said: “The application of science to ancient glass research illuminates ancient societies in new ways. The exciting part of this research using forensic techniques is when a wide range of fascinating new features about past societies, economies, cultures and even rituals are revealed. As the social and ritual values of glass changed from its first prestigious use as a ritual material to its massive-scale use as tableware and containers this is reflected in the ways in which it was made and traded.”


Subscribe to more articles like this by following our Google Discovery feed - Click the follow button on your desktop or the star button on mobile. Subscribe

‘Ancient Glass’ tells the story of the earliest production of this transparent, refractive and colourful material, how early artisans learned to heat the two main ingredients, silica sand and plant ash which served as a source of soda-lime flux that decreased the melting point of the glass. The story focuses on three contrasting archaeological and scientific case studies: Late Bronze Age glass, late Hellenistic–early Roman glass, and Islamic glass in the Middle East. Using isotopic and chemical techniques discoveries are reported about provenance, primary production, raw materials and trade.

Julian Henderson is Chair of Archaeological Science in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham. The author of The Science and Archaeology of Materials, he has published more than 200 contributions to books and journals, including in Antiquity, the Journal of Archaeological Science, the Journal of Glass Studies and the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy.

Header Image : Roman Cage Cup from the 4th century CE : WikiPedia

Contributing Source : University of Nottingham

- Advertisement -

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Drones Map High Plateaus Basin in Moroccan Atlas to Understand Human Evolution

Researchers from the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) have been using drones to create high-resolution aerial images and topographies to compile maps of the High Plateaus Basin in Moroccan Atlas.

The Kerguelen Oceanic Plateau Sheds Light on the Formation of Continents

How did the continents form? Although to a certain extent this remains an open question, the oceanic plateau of the Kerguelen Islands may well provide part of the answer, according to a French-Australian team led by the Géosciences Environnement Toulouse laboratory.

Ancient Societies Hold Lessons for Modern Cities

Today's modern cities, from Denver to Dubai, could learn a thing or two from the ancient Pueblo communities that once stretched across the southwestern United States. For starters, the more people live together, the better the living standards.

Volubilis – The Ancient Berber City

Volubilis is an archaeological site and ancient Berber city that many archaeologists believe was the capital of the Kingdom of Mauretania.

Pella – Birthplace of Alexander The Great

Pella is an archaeological site and the historical capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedon.

New Argentine fossils uncover history of celebrated conifer group

Newly unearthed, surprisingly well-preserved conifer fossils from Patagonia, Argentina, show that an endangered and celebrated group of tropical West Pacific trees has roots in the ancient supercontinent that once comprised Australia, Antarctica and South America, according to an international team of researchers.

High-tech CT reveals ancient evolutionary adaptation of extinct crocodylomorphs

The tree of life is rich in examples of species that changed from living in water to a land-based existence.

Fish fossils become buried treasure

Rare metals crucial to green industries turn out to have a surprising origin. Ancient global climate change and certain kinds of undersea geology drove fish populations to specific locations.

Archaeologists Discover Viking Toilet in Denmark

Archaeologists excavating a settlement on the Stevns Peninsula in Denmark suggests they have discovered a toilet from the Viking Age.

Innovation by ancient farmers adds to biodiversity of the Amazon, study shows

Innovation by ancient farmers to improve soil fertility continues to have an impact on the biodiversity of the Amazon, a major new study shows.

Popular stories