CORDIS - EU research results

Continuity and change in the emergence of the Hellenistic Glass industry in Greece

Final Report Summary - GLASSTECH2013 (Continuity and change in the emergence of the Hellenistic Glass industry in Greece)

During the last fifteen years the history of ancient glassmaking has been the focus of an increasing interest. This is reflected in the archaeological investigations and archaeometric studies, especially the application of scientific procedures to solve archaeological problems. Archaeological investigations have principally been aimed at locating ancient glass-making sites and at reconstructing models for the economic system which governed glass production and trade. Such studies have mainly been focused on Egyptian and Near Eastern sites dating back to the period of the origin of the first important phase of the glass industry (16th-11th c. BC) and from late antiquity (1st to 9th c. AD), while little interest has been given to glass from the intervening period (7th to 1st c. BC).

The research project Continuity and change in the emergence of the Hellenistic Glass industry in Greece is aimed at solving key issues relating to archaeology and the ancient economy, focusing on the production and trade of Greek glass of Hellenistic period and is strongly supported by scientific analytical techniques.

The objectives of this project are twofold and can be divided in two main categories: Research Objectives (RO) and Training Objectives (TO).

*Research objectives*
RO (1). to transform the knowledge base of ancient Greek glass so as to enhance in fundamental ways archaeological and art historical, socio-economic and technological interpretations;
RO (2). to apply an innovative combination of chemical (major, minor and trace elements analysis) and provenance (isotopic) techniques to archaeology, leading to the successful provenance of raw materials and the precise identification and characterisation of colourants and opacifiers;
RO (3). to identify the locations where primary production of Greek glass occurred, clarifying the economic dynamics governing Hellenistic glass production and trade and enhancing the knowledge of the ancient Greek economy.

*Training objectives*
TO (1). to provide comprehensive training in sample selection and preparation for a wide range of scientific techniques.
TO (2). to provide training in a wide range of chemical, isotopic and structural scientific techniques, including innovative ones:
• thermal ion mass spectrometry (TIMS)
• laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS)
• Electron Probe Micro Analysis (EPMA)
• Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM/EDX)
• Portable X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (HH-XRF)
TO (3). to provide training in the interdisciplinary interpretation of the results, combining science with archaeology.

*General results*
In the present research project a total of 480 samples were analysed with a combination of various analytical techniques (see Fig. 1). All samples are dated according to the archaeological record to the late, middle and early Hellenistic period. The majority of samples (n=271) are coming from various archaeological sites in Greece, while there is a substantial number of samples coming from adjacent to Greece areas such as Italy (n=56), Turkey (n=75), Cyprus (n=55) and Beirut (n=23). More details about the archaeological sites and the samples can be found at

The samples of this project have a typical ancient glass composition and fall in the soda-lime-silica type category. Silicon dioxide (SiO2) is the main glass former, while the presence of alumina (Al2O3), iron oxide (Fe2O3) and calcium oxide (CaO) in relatively high levels indicate sand as the main component of glass objects (Fig. 2). Potassium oxide (K2O) and magnesium oxide (MgO) for the majority of samples are found in concentrations below 1% wt., indicating sodium-rich minerals used as a flux such as natron or/and trona (Fig. 3).

The comparison of the data with published studies provided, in most cases, similarities in basic glass composition, without excluding the existence of groups of samples with different chemical characteristics. Furthermore, various interregional differences between major, minor and trace element composition of the samples under study were identified indicating possibly different glassmaking traditions and therefore different centres of production. This consequently leads to the conclusion of possible connections between specific archaeological sites in the Greek region which is not attested yet archaeologically.

The majority of samples from Greek region show characteristics of an Egyptian origin testifying with this the connections and trade exchange activities Greece had with Egypt during the Ptolemaic period. Furthermore, various possible other sources of raw materials were identified using trace element composition and isotopic analysis.

*Socioeconomic impact of the results*
The results of this project are very important since up to date is the largest corpus of analytical data provided for the Hellenistic period for Greek region. The extensive study of the material allows us to place the Greek Hellenistic glassmaking on the same level of understanding as prehistoric and late antiquity glassmaking.

Furthermore, the project created new and fascinating links between researchers of different disciplines. The fellow worked in an international European research context and further expanded his collaboration network within EU allowing him to contribute with the knowledge acquired to the European Research area. The project and its collaborative network formed a platform for the full contextualisation of a broad interdisciplinary study of the production, provenance and distribution of Greek Hellenistic glass, incorporating state of the art scientific techniques. This demonstrated that Europe is the best place for scholars to work who wish to study large-scale and broad interdisciplinary projects in spite of economic, social and technological forces that continue to shape and influence European society.