Ancient glass

The raw materials for glass making are few and easy to find; the basic one is common sand. It is no wonder that glass was known from prehistoric times – glass artifacts in Greece date from the Bronze Age (ca. 2500 BCE). However, glass manufacture presents some difficulties, which meant that for a long time it was a luxury item, produced only in small quantities.

It was only after the middle of the 1st century BCE, when the blown glass technique is invented, that the cost of manufacture dropped significantly, while the number of objects that could be made rose exponentially. Suddenly, wide sections of the population had access to an increasing variety of glass items.

In Roman times, the glass manufacture was one of the Empire’s significant industries. Trade in glass artifacts, as well as in the raw materials for their manufacture flourished.

The ability of sand to be transformed into a shapeless mass which in turn could be made into any number of beautiful and delicate objects must have seemed almost magical to ancient peoples. At the same time, the material’s unique properties, especially for the storage of liquids, soon made it extremely popular and preferable to its rivals, metal or ceramic vessels.

The examples above are from the Archaeological Museum of Chania, Crete, and date from the 5th century BCE until the 3rd century CE. The mass of unshaped molten glass was found in the ancient town of Tarra (today known as Agia Roumeli), site of a glass making industry.

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