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The impact of glassblowing on the Early-Roman glass industry (circa 50 B.C. – A.D. 79)

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ancient glass was frequently treated as though it was a prestigious product, owned only by the elites of society. Research was primarily art-historical, and focused on select museum pieces. As archaeology developed, it became clear that glass vessels were used at many, if not most, Roman sites, from the late first century B.C. onward, and in many different social contexts, contradicting the idea that only the rich could afford them. Scholars began to explain the increased prevalence of glass by arguing that the invention of glassblowing (circa 50 B.C.) had increased production speed while lowering production costs, making glass vessels cheap and widely available across the social spectrum This thesis explores the role of blown glass by comparing the percentages and forms produced by older casting techniques in glass vessel assemblages from military sites, civilian sites, frontier settlements, and settings at the heart of the Roman world. It seeks to understand the social and economic status of blown glass and cast glass: why did cast glass persist after the invention of cheaper blown glass? Was cast and blown glass equally accessible to different levels of society? And to what extent can the invention of glassblowing bear responsibility for the rise in glass vessel use in the Roman world? By drawing comparisons between vessels from different production methods, and from different social and geographical contexts, this thesis begins to identify emerging patterns in glass use across Roman society and finds that both cast and blown vessels were used across all levels of society and that there was no strict divide between the use of casting for luxury wares and glassblowing for cheap utilitarian wares.
Date January 2015
CreatorsPrior, Jonathan David
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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