Monday, April 9, 2018

A History of Glass

Glass is a material of great interest to archaeologists and materials experts. Because of its fragile nature, many of the oldest glass artifacts are no longer intact.

The oldest known glass manufacturing site was in Egypt. It dates to around 1350 B.C. The glass items produced there were for nobles and high kings. The Egyptians set the early standard in glass-making. They created blue glass beads, beads with embedded amber, and vessels with narrow necks used to store perfume or other precious liquids. They also used glazes of glass to decorate objects made of other materials.

A glass bottle bearing the sign of King Thutmose III, of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, is on display in the British Museum in London.

The artisans of Mesopotamian also produced glass. A victory inscription from an Egyptian king claimed that he had brought back skilled glass workers from Mesopotamia.

Decorated glass was produced 1000 years ago at Igbo-Olokun, an archaeological site in the Yoruba city of Ile-Ife in southwestern Nigeria.

The Glastonbury Abbey Project has been reevaluating data from previous excavations at that ancient site. One of the discoveries involves glass making. A reassessment of the Glastonbury glass-producing furnaces proved that Saxon workers were recycling Roman glass imported from Europe, and that the furnaces are nearly 300 years older than expected. They date to about A.D. 700 and are associated with the construction of the earliest stone churches in England. According to archaeologist Roberta Gilchrist (University of Reading) this makes the site’s glass production complex among the earliest and most substantial in Saxon England.

Ancient Greek and Roman glass

Glass is made from sand. Early humans probably discovered this when they built bonfires on the sand. The fire's intense heat turned the sand into liquid. When the liquid sand cooled, they noticed that it was hard. It had turned into glass.

The technique of glass blowing made glass less costly and more accessible to the average person of the Roman Empire.

Watch this video.

Here is another account of the history of glass.

Related reading: Egyptian Glass in Ancient Nordic Graves; The Origin of Libyan Desert Glass

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