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Glass of the Roman World

Glass of the Roman World

Edited by Justine Bayley, Ian Freestone, and Caroline Jackson. Pp. xxvi + 204, figs. 151, tables 12. Oxbow Books, Philadelphia 2015. $70. ISBN 978-1-78297-744-2 (cloth).

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This volume is the product of a conference organized by the Association for the History of Glass in 2006 in honor of Jennifer Price’s retirement from the archaeology department at Durham University. Price is one of the most prominent specialists in the study of Roman glass. A list of her publications given in the beginning of the monograph demonstrates the vast range of research she has conducted in the United Kingdom and beyond. Most of the 18 papers in this volume reflect aspects she has dealt with and were written by leading scholars in the field of ancient glass studies. The authors have employed a variety of methodological approaches, sometimes in combination, to answer wide-ranging questions. Most are typological, but others use technological, methodological, analytical, experimental, and contextual approaches, demonstrating an updated and advanced picture of the current state of Roman glass research.

The volume is divided into three thematic sections. The first deals with technology and production. Articles discuss glass production evidence from primary glass workshops at Beni Salame, Egypt (Nenna), and secondary glass workshops in Hambach, Germany (Follmann-Schulz), and London (Shepherd). Other studies include: glass production techniques like the pontil and its use in the production of specific vessel types (Whitehouse); composition, technology, and production of colored glasses in mosaic vessels from the collections of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (Freestone and Stapleton); and a comparison of glass production techniques and their products (glassblowing, tooling on a turntable mold, and mold blowing), mentioned by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, in order to explore glass production between East (Syro-Palestine) and West (mostly Rome [Stern]). One chapter deals with scientific analysis and how it should be applied and integrated with archaeological data to provide a better understanding of the structure of the glass industry (Jackson and Foster).

The second section deals with vessels and their forms in typological studies: of moldblown beakers from Narbonensis (Fontaine and Foy) and Barzan (Cottam) in southern France; of a diverse assemblage of glass vessels from Garama and other smaller sites in the Fezzan Oasis, Libya (Hoffmann); and of uncommon vessels from Caesarea Maritima, Israel (Israeli). Another paper examines issues of domestic use and storage patterns in Late Roman glass assemblages from Ephesus, Turkey, and Petra, Jordan (Keller), while another discusses the decoration and technique of a newly identified cameo glass vase from an unknown provenance (Newby-Haspeslagh).

The third section explores multiple topics: window panes from Butrint, Albania (Jennings); wooden window-glazing bars from the legionary camp of Vindonissa, Switzerland (Amrein); the reuse of broken Roman glass vessels at Augst and additional sites in Switzerland (Fünfschilling); the composition, production, and origin of Roman enamels from Britain (Bayley); and the distribution patterns of Roman black glass vessels and small finds from Britain, Belgium, and Germany (Cosyns).

The papers cover a wide array of subjects, mostly dated to the Roman period (first–fourth centuries C.E.) and from sites mainly in the West (10) but also from earlier and later periods and from the East (4), from both East and West (2), and from museum collections (2). Unfortunately, despite Price’s interest in glass finds from Spain, no articles dealing with finds from this region are presented. The articles vary in scope and depth; some are more site-oriented, while others deal with broader topics or methodological issues. Some are published for the first time in this volume, while others were already wholly or partially published, probably as a result of the long time that lapsed between the conference and the volume’s publication.

In conclusion, Glass of the Roman World is a valuable resource for specialists in the field of Roman glass and for those who wish to become acquainted with the subject. It is well edited and produced, with high-quality line drawings and many color plates. All the articles are published in clearly written English (despite the natural tendency of some authors to publish mostly in their native tongues), making the volume especially accessible to all readers interested in this field. It will be an important addition to any archaeological library.

This volume is a wonderful tribute to the work of Price, who continues to enrich our understanding of Roman glass, and it is a good testimony to the vivid and diverse possibilities in Roman glass research.

Ruth E. Jackson-Tal
Institute of Archaeology
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Book Review of Glass of the Roman World, edited by Justine Bayley, Ian Freestone, and Caroline Jackson

Reviewed by Ruth E. Jackson-Tal

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 121, No. 1 (January 2017)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1211.JacksonTal

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