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Global Glass Adornments Event Horizon in the Late Iron Age and Roman Period Frontiers (100 BC - AD 250)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GLOBALGLASS (Global Glass Adornments Event Horizon in the Late Iron Age and Roman Period Frontiers (100 BC - AD 250))

Reporting period: 2015-10-05 to 2017-10-04

Global Glass provides multidisciplinary examination of the cross-cultural consumption of personal adornments, glass bracelets, used by the inhabitants of the European northwest regions during the Late Iron Age to Roman period, c. 250 B.C. – A.D. 200. These artefacts are seamless ring-shaped objects composed of coloured glass decorated with various motifs, patterns and applied coloured designs. The project brings together the evidence from four north-western European countries, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and United Kingdom, to assess how these artefacts were made, used, and deposited on an interregional and local level. By positioning the glass bangles in the context of social, cultural and political developments in the transitional period from Later Iron Age to Roman, the project explains the reason behind massive increase in the numbers of glass adornments, their variability in use and decorative regionality in this period. To do that the project introduces the new pan-European phenomenon termed ‘glass adornments event horizon’.
The main objectives of the projects are thus to (i) ascertain the geographic and chronological development of the ‘glass adornment event horizon’; (ii) explore the various functions and gender-less nature of the glass bangles; (iii) elucidate by experimentation various manufacturing techniques of these artefacts; (iv) by zooming-on on one area, Britain, understand the regional ramification of the event and explore geographic and chronological use, and function of British bangles, understand where the inspiration, skill and raw materials for them come from; and ultimately, (v) understand the transformative role these artefacts played in the formation of inter-European and regional identities in a transitional period when new cultural forms and practices emerged in the European Northwest.
The action concludes with clear image of connectivity and continuity in glass bangle manufacture, use, and deposition in the transitional period from Late Iron Age to Roman period across European Northwest. By bringing the British glass bangles into the discussion of the Continental ones it became possible to observe how regionality and local taste played a role in the changing dynamic of bangles’ development.
In the first year of the project Dr Ivleva have carried out the research that was mainly focused on assessment and evaluation of the published and unpublished British data. The researcher has collected the data by visiting 23 museums and private contractor firms in the North-East and South-East of England, Scotland and Wales to measure, record and photograph 600 of published and unpublished glass bangles. After the museum visits, she has completed an extensive review of the published literature and consulted the UK Historic Environment Records in order to check the commercial 'grey literature' reports. This combined museum and literature search in the first year has resulted in addition of ca 600 previously unpublished British glass bangles, totalling the number of bangles from UK up to 1000. During the museum visits, Dr Ivleva has been able to use microscopy research facilities to uncover the information relating to the use-wear patterns and manufacturing technique. The microscopic analysis has shown that the people used the glass bangles for various purposes, and some ideas as to the various purposes bangles served have been tried and tested with the help of experimental archaeological group 'Comitatus'.
In the second year of the project, Dr Ivleva has focused on the experimental, scientific and theoretical parts of the project and have carried out the analysis of the Continental evidence.
Dr Ivleva has spent four non-consecutive months at the Römisch-Germanische Kommission (RGK), Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany on a secondment to gather data in regard to date range and distribution of glass annulars in three European countries to ascertain the geographic and chronological development of the ‘glass adornment event horizon’. During these visits she has generated an updated dataset of the glass bangles found on the sites dated to the Later Iron Age Europe. She has also carried out the evaluation of the British data in relation to the Continental evidence to answer the question as to where the inspiration, skills and raw materials for the British bangles came from. Scientific analyses was conducted on few British fragments to provide insights into the provenance of the raw materials and colorants used in some artefacts. Further work was undertaken (i) to determine a manufacturing technique of Romano-British glass bangles (ii) to produce a short film describing the manufacturing process; (iiI) to create various 3D digital models and interactive presentations of the Romano-British glass bangles. A particular attention was paid to the dissemination of some of the results to the wider public, with 13 talks given at various international conferences and learned societies. Great North-Hancock Museum, Newcastle, UK, hosted a temporary exhibition about the project (Oct 2017-Jan 2018).
The analysis of the spatial and temporal developments of the ‘glass adornment event horizon’ has produced the following results. There existed at least four industrial glass bangle powerhouse areas in the study region in the Later Iron Age Europe: southern Bavaria, Upper and Lower Rhineland, Rhein-Main area. The network analysis of the distribution mechanisms of the glass bangles in these regions has shown that the glass bangle industry was specialized, but there existed a complex and fluid system of relations and interactions between various settlements in terms of glass bangle circulation. The detailed evaluation of the British data has pointed to the craft of glass bangles arriving to southern Britain from the Continent, in around early first century AD at the time of the intensification of the contacts between Britain and Gaul. The British craftspeople used the Continental technology for the manufacture but adapted the design to fit the local taste.
True to its interdisciplinary nature, the project delivered to stakeholders in academic and non-academic sector.
During the recording and photography of the published glass bangles’ fragments it became obvious that no clear standards necessary for reporting the artefacts exist. This recognition has resulted that new international guidelines for the measuring, recording, and photographing of the bangles across European northwest need to be introduced.
Wider societal implications of the project is raising academic and public awareness about a forgotten artefact. Glass and glass artefacts had been of secondary importance to scholars studying artefacts in Late Iron Age and early Roman periods, with particular focus had always had been on the decorated metalwork. Through various dissemination and public outreach activities the project resituated the glass bangles back into the discussion of ‘Celtic’ and Roman artefacts and art, and provided new theoretical framework within which to study them.
The work on the manufacturing technology of the British glass bangles has made it possible that for the first time in less than 2000 years the bangles were once again produced in the English northeast. The joint collaboration with the glass artisan of National Glass Centre in Sunderland, UK, has resulted in the production of ca 100 complete glass bangles in design very close to the original, Roman-period, ones.
3D reconstruction of Romano-British glass bangle workshop
Experiments with making bangles: image of an artisan
Project logo
Poster advertising the exhibition
Experiments with making bangles: bangle is ready