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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
Base of a late first century square bottle
Facetted cut bowl (mid-Roman)
Facetted cut plate (mid-Roman)

Photos courtesy Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project. Click on images to enlarge.
by Marc Waelkens

Glass Studies: July/August 2007


Pillar molded bowl (casting technique, early Roman)

This year the glass studies focused on a re-assement of the early contexts. In his 1991 preliminary report, Chris Lightfoot indicated the striking appearance of high-quality third-century glassware. These facet-cut pieces were also recognized in quantity in Sardis (Turkey) and especially in Dura Europos (Syria). For the latter, Clairmont states that all glass objects of this type are imports from workshops situated on the Levantine coasts, what he calls the “East Syrian-Mesopotamian koiné.” In the Sagalassos assemblage, we clearly see a duality in quality. Next to the beautifully cut bowls, we also see a variety where the best description of the used decoration technique would be “abrasion.” The question to resolve in the feature by means of geochemical and isotopic analysis is whether we, indeed can speak about importation of these “best quality glasses” and of a local imitation. And if so, is this import on the level of the vessel or of a specific kind of raw glass?

So far, no fully quantified early imperial glass assemblages have been published for Asia Minor, and only very few items of such glass were found in stratified contexts where they were mostly mixed with Hellenistic glass. Some remarks can be made, however. Chris Lightfoot indicated that, although cast and ribbed bowls were found on a regular basis, “little trace of mosaic glass can be found in Anatolia.” This fact is also reflected in the available publications of museum or private collections in the region. The glass on display in the Antalya Museum, shows a broad range of Hellenistic, Roman, and early Byzantine glass, but indeed, no polychrome cast glass. In the section on early imperial glass of the Yüksel Erimtan Collection, cast, free blown and mold blown vessels are attested, the collection of the Afyon Museum only holds mold blown and free blown glass, while vessels made in the sand core technique, that were cast or were mold or free blown, stand side by side in the Bodrum Museum.


Early Roman millefiori (polychrome cast vessels)

Excavations at Priene revealed that as early as the first century A.D., blown bottles for perfume or oil were in use, while in Sardis the first blown vessels were attested, together with non-blown glass, in levels dated to the second third of the first century A.D. Strikingly, recent excavations at Amourium revealed polychrome cast vessels. And also Sagalassos six different millefiori sherds where unearthed.

Two fragments of strong colored cast vessels with ceramic-like profiles were retrieved here as well, despite the presumed rareness of this type of glass in the eastern part of the empire.

In the same context, a (local?) imitation of an early blown zarte rippenschale was also recognised along with a blown skyphos. And also the Burdur Museum holds in his collection a true zarte rippenschale. Such glass, found in a provincial town such as Sagalassos (and its territory) in the mountains, at least suggests that distribution of early imperial glass is perhaps less straightforward as previously considered. The issue of the introduction of free blown glass at Sagalassos, however, can still not be sufficiently resolved, although we do see early blown square bottles appearing in contexts dated to the end of the first century.

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