Roman Glass Olla Urn - LO.919
Origin: Western Europe
Circa: 100 AD to 400 AD

Collection: Classical Antiquities
Style: Gallo-Roman
Medium: hot-worked glass

The large transparent moderated bluish green glass urn with flaring rim folded inward, with a ledge for the lid; concave neck, globular body, slightly pushed in hollow base ring. Two heavy omega-shaped handles, each one made from one thick coil, applied on the left and attached on the right , the excess glass drawn out thin and folded outward. On exterior and interior flaky rainbow iridescence.

Often protected by a lead container, the glass cinerary urn was common in areas where cremation was practiced; in the western Mediterranean from Italy to Spain and the north- African coast as far east as Tripoli, as well as in the north-western provinces of the Roman Empire, from where this example possibly came. Their archaeological distribution confined within graves and columbaria would confirm that they were made specifically for funerary purposes and were not household jars in secondary use like several other vessel shapes. Most of the analogous pieces found in excavations were provided with a pierced lid which probably served as a funnel for pouring libations.

In the history of Roman glass, the second half of the first century was by far the most prolific in terms of quantity, variety and functionalities. It was the expansion of the Empire that spurred the emergence of satellite glass centres in the new provinces to the north-west and north-east of Italy. The romanization of these regions also meant that most of the glass produced there would closely follow typologies and techniques in vogue in Rome. This was a period of great homogeneity but also a period of important developments in terms of functions. It was during the second half of the 1st century AD that large glass vessels for the storage of liquids and solids were first introduced. This dramatic increase in size – attested also by the size of our urn- was possible thanks to the introduction of both the iron blow-pipe and the technique of mould-blowing for utilitarian wares. Furthermore, the absence of a pontil scar on the urn, would seem to confirm that, by this time, glassblowers had already figured out how to make large vessels, even before they developed and perfected the pontil technique.

For a comparable example with lid: M. Stern, Roman, Byzantine and Early Medieval Glass, 2001: No.41, p. 108. - (LO.919)