Height: 23.500 cm
Bequeathed by James Woodhouse of Corfu
Room 22: Alexander the Great
Conical glass bowl
Made in a Syro-Palestinian glasshouse between about 150-50 BC
Widely exported, principally to sites in the eastern Mediterranean
The 'slumping process' by which bowls such as this were made involved slumping a pre-formed glass disc over a ceramic mould or form. The vessels are monochrome, so the disc would have been simply made by pouring or ladling molten glass from a crucible (fire-resistant container) onto a flat heat-resistant surface. The slumping technique seems to have been discovered soon after that of core-forming, about 1550-1525 BC, and was used fairly extensively in western Asia in the eighth and seventh centuries BC. Its commercial exploitation, however, was left to the Hellenistic glass-makers.
The Hellenistic glass-makers produced only bowls using this technique, but these were of various shapes. Some were hemispherical, but most commonly they were conical with pointed bottoms, like this example. A number are of the more natural greenish colours, and some are almost colourless. The amber colour of this vessel would have been achieved by the addition of iron to the mix of soda, lime and silica when making the glass.
The moulding process, with only the interior of the vase in contact with the mould, would have left the outside glossy. Nevertheless, the bowls were polished all over. Most are decorated with concentric circles cut on the bottom and grooves near the rim. They were made with little variation for nearly 100 years and were widely exported, reaching many sites in the eastern Mediterranean and occasionally further west.
H. Tait (ed.), Five thousand years of glass-1, 2nd paperback edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)
V. Tatton-Brown and W. Gudenrath, Catalogue of Greek and Roman g (London, The British Museum Press, forthcoming)