Roman Glass Vessel - X.0359
Origin: Eastern Mediterranean
Circa: 50 AD to 150 AD
Additional Information: Found in En Gedi, Israel
Wide cylindrical clear light blue glass jug with rounded shoulders and very short neck, a constriction below, muff-shaped profiled rim, horizontally flanged, slightly concave base. The handle wide and flat with dense ribs, bent at a right angle.
Although the precise origins of glass are unknown, we do know that the revolutionary technique of glassblowing was invented in the Syrio-Palestine region around 50 B.C., thousands of years after the discovery of glass. Before, glass was made through labor-intensive techniques that limited the vessels to the wealthy elite. However, glassblowing allowed vessels of larger sizes to be produced on a much larger scale and at a markedly faster pace. With the Roman conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean, glassblowing was imported into the heart of Rome along with its Phoenician and Judean makers.
As the technique disseminated throughout the empire, glass vessels became much more affordable, transforming what was once a luxury item into a domestic staple. Ordinary people possessed glass objects for the first time. As the technique became more refined and the artists bolder and more experimental, a class of highly intricate vessels that were created by master craftsmen over long periods of time came into being. Based on the labor involved, the beauty of the design, and sometimes the hue of the glass (red glass, for instance, was achieved by adding gold dust to the composition, making this color very expensive and rare) these vessels could only be afforded by the wealthy elite.
Blown-glass vessels came in a plethora of shapes and sizes, and in a broad assortment of hues that changed according to the specific chemicals that were added. In fact, the glassblower was limited only by his imagination and the strength of his arms. Larger vessels were used to store a wide variety of household items, mainly liquids and grains. Smaller, more delicate works were used to hold precious commodities such as perfumes, unguents, medicines, and spices. The transparent nature of glass was a great advantage, since the contents of a vessel could be easily determined without having to open the container, possibly spoiling the perishable goods inside.
This large blue/green glass vessel was found in En Gedi, Israel. The Eastern Mediterranean territories remained the center of glass manufacturing, where the finest examples were produced, even as the technique spread across the empire. The beauty and elegance of this vessel reflects the skills of its maker. The wide, slightly bulging, cylindrical body is echoed by the short neck, which is crowned by a flared rim. A broad handle has been attached at the neck and shoulder of the vessel. The size of this glass piece suggests that it was used to store and serve water or wine. Once, it would have rested on the dinner table of an Ancient Roman household somewhere in the Holy Land.
For a comparable example cf. the jug in the Ermitage Collection in N. Kunina, Ancient Glass in the Hermitage Collection, 1997 :pl.233, p. 301 - (X.0359)