Glass in Roman Britain

Although it is not uncommon to find remains of glass objects in Roman burials, there is little evidence for the manufacturing process itself. Glass production was undoubtedly practised in most areas of the Empire, with the quality varying between provinces. A variety of glass was produced and reached a cross section of society. As the material can be recycled, glass makers would have collected broken vessels and reused the fragments.

Roman glassware is technically and aesthetically of the highest quality. Although glass had been made for centuries, the invention of glass-blowing only took place in the first century BC. The resulting increase in production led to material becoming cheaper and more widely available, so that glass vessels were used not only for fine tableware but also for the packaging and transport of food items.

Glass has unique physical properties that enable it to be shaped and decorated in ways impossible for clay or metal, and Roman glassmakers exploited these qualities to the full. In addition to free-blown vessels, some containers were made by blowing the glass into a mould to create plastic forms or decoration. Sometimes the name of the manufacturer was included.

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