Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


ARCHGLASS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 240750
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Belgium

Groundbreaking study on the history of glass production in Hellenistic-Roman times

An EU initiative devised novel interdisciplinary methods for archaeological interpretation of the glass trade in the Hellenistic-Roman world.
Groundbreaking study on the history of glass production in Hellenistic-Roman times
The EU-funded ARCHGLASS (Archaeometry and archaeology of ancient glass production as a source for ancient technology and trade of raw materials) project worked to develop innovative archaeometrical techniques for the origin of glass. Overall, the aim was to apply such methods to better understand the trade and processing of mineral raw materials used for glassmaking.

Project partners developed new techniques to reconstruct ancient economies and then applied them to the Hellenistic-Roman glass trade. They also developed and further improved isotope geochemical methods to analyse glass and its raw materials using several chemical elements.

The ARCHGLASS team set up a database of mineralogical and chemical compositions of possible raw materials (sand and flux) for glassmaking that were sampled from the Mediterranean. This enabled the team to uncover the primary origin of natron glass in the Hellenistic-Roman world.

Analyses of possible raw materials and glass show that suitable sands for natron glassmaking are rare. Glass factories in the eastern Mediterranean and possibly Italy were active from the very beginning of natron glassmaking. Primary glass producers in the western Mediterranean or northern Africa were much less active.

Primary natron glass originated in the western and eastern Mediterranean and Italy beginning in early Roman times through to the first half of the 5th century AD. This came about as a result of the investment in glassmaking production centres throughout the Roman Empire. By the end of the 5th century AD, glass production in the western Mediterranean, northern Africa and Italy gradually declined. From then on, natron glassmaking was exclusively carried out by glass producers in the eastern Mediterranean, namely Egypt, Palestine and Syria.

Thanks to its newly developed techniques, ARCHGLASS was able to provide an unprecedented interpretation of glass trade in the Hellenistic-Roman world.

Related information


Glass production, Hellenistic-Roman, ARCHGLASS, archaeometry, natron glass
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