The Sutri drinking horn

Lombardic, late 6th century AD
Found in a grave at Sutri, Lazio, Italy

The simple form of this drinking-horn was probably introduced into Italy by the Lombards. It would have been used to pass round strong drink at feasts and drinking sessions.

The horn is made of blue glass with a ground rim, white trails and nipped, self-coloured lattice-work. Its shape is derived from examples made in Roman provinces north of the Alps. These were based on drinking vessels made from the horns of cattle or aurochs (wild ox). The glass horns became symbols of high status among several Germanic peoples and are sometimes found in graves. They were probably used for drinking ale rather than wine.

The glass horns were made by blowing a cone and drawing it into a curve, which might be twisted to imitate an animal horn. Their colouring and decoration show the use of sophisticated techniques which appear to have been kept up by Italian glassblowers. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, glass-making techniques such as colouring were lost in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon areas, but continued in Italy. This horn is typical of those made for the Lombards in northern Italy - it has not been twisted and a bright colour has been added to the glass.

The Sutri horn was possibly made in Rome - a similar example was found at Castel Trosino (grave 119), near Ascoli Piceno in the Marches, Italy. Excavations at Torcello, near Venice, have also uncovered the site of a late sixth to seventh-century glassworks.

Find in the collection online

More information


V.I. Evison, 'Bichrome vessels of the seventh and eighth centuries', Studien zur Sachsenforschung, 3 (1982), pp. 7-21

D.B. Harden, 'Glass vessels in Britain and Ireland, A.D. 400-1000' in Dark-Age Britain (London, Methuen, 1956), pp. 132-167

S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)

V.I. Evison, 'Germanic glass drinking horns', Journal of Glass Studies-1, 17 (1975)

V.I. Evison, 'Anglo-Saxon finds near Rainham, Essex, with a study of glass drinking-horns', Archaeologia-15, 96 (1955), pp. 159-195

M.S. Arena et al. (eds.), Roma dallAntichità al Medioevo (Milan, 2001)


Length: 23.000 cm

Museum number

Britain, Europe and Prehistory


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore