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 Museum Explorer

Tools and technology in
Ancient Egypt

Glass fish

Length: 14.500 cm

EA 55193

Glass fish

From: Tell el-Amarna, Egypt
Date: 18th Dynasty, around 1350 BC

Many glass bottles shaped like fish have been found from ancient Egyptian times, but this tilapia is particularly beautiful. First, a skilled craftworker made a fish-shape out of clay. Strands of hot molten glass were trailed over this core to make the basic body. Next, coloured rods of molten glass were wrapped around the fish and dragged with a tool to make a pattern of fish-scales. The body was then smoothed over and eyes and fins were added. Finally the clay inside was scraped out.

Tilapia fish hide their babies in their mouths, letting them out after danger has passed. The Egyptians thought that this was like being born again, and so the tilapia was important to them.