GLASS AND FAIENCE IN ANCIENT EGYPT

GLASS AND FAIENCE IN ANCIENT EGYPT


glass and bronze grapes

Glassmaking was known in ancient Egypt as far back as 2500 B.C. The bottle was invented sometime around 1500 B.C. by Egyptian artisans. The Egyptians created lovely glassware. They made delightful tiny glass vases, tall-rim jars adorned with flamingos. Before glassblowing was developed in the 1st century B.C. “core glass” vessels were made by forming the glass around a solid metal rod that was taken out as the glass cooled.

Some of the most beautiful works of Egyptian art are blue pear-size hippopotami made of faience of clay and glazed in vivid blue glass. One of these hippos is upside down and has a broken leg, these were talisman placed with the dead. Their aim is scare off attacks by hippos in the journey in the afterlife.

Scarab beetles were not just decorative items. One their undersides were written short tributes or accounts. A potato-size scarab produced under Amenhotep III commemorated the pharaohs skill as a hunter and describes how he killed “102 fearful lions: during the first 11 years of his reign.

Websites on Ancient Egypt: UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, escholarship.org ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Egypt sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Discovering Egypt discoveringegypt.com; BBC History: Egyptians bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians ; Ancient History Encyclopedia on Egypt ancient.eu/egypt; Digital Egypt for Universities. Scholarly treatment with broad coverage and cross references (internal and external). Artifacts used extensively to illustrate topics. ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt ; British Museum: Ancient Egypt ancientegypt.co.uk; Egypt’s Golden Empire pbs.org/empires/egypt; Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org ; Oriental Institute Ancient Egypt (Egypt and Sudan) Projects ; Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre in Paris louvre.fr/en/departments/egyptian-antiquities; KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt kmtjournal.com; Ancient Egypt Magazine ancientegyptmagazine.co.uk; Egypt Exploration Society ees.ac.uk ; Amarna Project amarnaproject.com; Egyptian Study Society, Denver egyptianstudysociety.com; The Ancient Egypt Site ancient-egypt.org; Abzu: Guide to Resources for the Study of the Ancient Near East etana.org; Egyptology Resources fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk

Faience in Ancient Egypt

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “Faience has been described as “the first high-tech ceramic”, which aptly describes its artificial nature. Unlike conventional, clay-based ceramics, the raw material of faience is a mixture of silica (quartz), alkali (soda), and lime reacted together during firing to make a new medium, quite different in nature to its constituents. The Egyptians referred to the material as THnt (tjehenet) “that which is brilliant, scintillating, or dazzling,” in view of its reflective qualities, which they associated with the shiny surfaces of semiprecious stones. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]

Faience derives its modern name from its bright colors, which reminded early travelers to Egypt of “Fayence,” a colorful tin-glazed pottery that they knew from late medieval times and that took its name from the town of Faenza in northern Italy (confusingly, this pottery is itself now usually called majolica). The color most associated with the material is blue or blue-green and was probably produced in imitation of semiprecious stones such as turquoise and green feldspar, as well as lapis lazuli. The Egyptian name for the material was THnt (tjehenet), meaning “brilliant” or “dazzling” in reference to its brilliant shine, like that of the stones it was imitating. <>

“The origin of faience is probably to be sought in the Egyptian desire for semiprecious stones, not least those with the reflective blue color of the sky. It may have been the wish to replicate these that led to the glazing of steatite (soapstone, which hardens to become enstatite on firing) and quartz. The glazing of these stones developed as early as Predynastic times, when a soda-lime-silicate glaze was applied over the carved stones. Peltenburg has made the point that faience glazing was an essentially “cold working” technology, unlike glass, which was “hot worked.” By this is meant that the faience worker prepared his object and glazing materials cold, the firing of the object being done at a later stage. This technique also applies to the glazing of stone and indicates a clear link between craftsmen in semiprecious stones and glazing in the earliest phase of the production of glazed materials. <>


faience falcon

“It is not clear how the transition from objects carved from stone to objects made from what is essentially a reconstituted and modified stone (comprising crushed quartz or sand and alkali) was made, but it happened during the Predynastic Period and was already well established by Early Dynastic times. It may have been driven by the desire to achieve more detailed “carvings” than could readily be produced from solid quartz and yet preserve a greater brilliance than normally found on glazed steatite. The steps in this discovery are not known, but the result is essentially a reconstituted stone to which the name “Egyptian faience” has been given. It is worth noting that Egyptian faience, more frequently referred to simply as “faience,” is not exclusive to Egypt but is well known elsewhere in the Near East and the Aegean, and is found in smaller quantities in Europe where it was produced, and probably developed, independently. <>

"As with all ancient materials the resources necessary for faience production had to be sourced from within the landscape. In the case of faience these materials would comprise silica (quartz, either in the form of pebbles, which could be crushed, or quartz sand) and an alkali (soda in the form of natron from the Wadi Natrun or other lesser sources, or from the ash of burnt plants). To these would be added lime (intentionally or not), either naturally present in the sand or from crushed or calcined (heated) limestone. Color was normally achieved by the addition of metal compounds, most notably copper. <>

“Traditional craftsmen did not work to the kinds of precise formulas now employed in industrial manufacturing. As a result, variations in faience composition are to be expected and numerous faience recipes are known. Vandiver states that a fairly typical bulk composition is: Silica (SiO2) 92 – 99 percent, Lime (CaO) 1 – 5 percent, “Soda” (Na2O) 0 – 5 percent To this mixture may be added small quantities of copper oxide (CuO), magnesium oxide (MgO), and potassium oxide (K2O), along with quantities of aluminum oxide (Al2O3) and traces of other elements. It should be noted that the form in which these substances (which show as oxides in analyses) were added is not known with certainty. The silica makes up the body of the material. However, unlike the components of glass manufacture, the soda and lime are not present in sufficient quantity to melt the silica completely at the production temperatures; rather, they serve to react with the silica to form a small amount of glass that binds the silica grains.” <>

Forming Ancient Egyptian Faience Objects

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “In order to form an object a faience paste first had to be produced. This would involve the collection and crushing of quartz pebbles, probably using pounders and quernstones, or the collection of quartz sand. The sand itself would normally have required some crushing or grinding to render it into a flour-like powder to which crushed natron (or plant ash) and lime would be added. These ingredients too would need processing. The lime might come from crushed limestone, or from limestone that had been calcined and then reduced to powder (it might also be naturally present among the quartz sand and so be crushed and added unintentionally with the sand itself). Where plant ash soda was used the coarse material from the ashing of the plants would have to be picked or sieved out before crushing the remainder. The materials would then be mixed together in approximately the ratio presented above. The paste produced was thixotropic—that is, subject to changes in viscosity that would make it difficult to shape and prone to losing detail. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]


faience hippos

“A wide range of techniques was used for the shaping of the faience body material. An object might be roughly modeled in the soft paste, allowed to dry and then abraded to its final shape using sharp tools. This abrasion technique seems to have been widely used to make the small animal figures popular in Early Dynastic times. Where numerous identical pieces were required—for example, inlays for furniture or buildings, or amulets—then molding could be used. A pad of clay was impressed with the shape of the desired object, using an existing object or a metal or wooden former, or perhaps by carving out the clay to the desired shape. The mold was then fired and could subsequently be used to produce multiple copies of the object in faience paste. Since the object was not fired in the mold but rather tipped out of it to dry, the mold could be used many times in quick succession. Eventually the mold, which was porous, would itself soak up some of the paste materials; when efflorescent pastes were being used, the mold would eventually gain an effloresced surface and become useless. At this point it seems that the mold would be discarded and a new one made. It is likely that the glazed tiles used in the Step Pyramid complex of Djoser were made by molding and may thus serve as an early example of mass production. These tiles are believed to have been glazed using the efflorescence process (described below under Glazing), which was typical of the Old Kingdom. <>

“Because the faience paste is thixotropic, even molded pieces are rarely truly identical, since the material often loses detail, such as impressed hieroglyphs, as it dries. Molded pieces may therefore require some re- touching, essentially re-carving of detail, after they are removed from the mold. This has been a source of difficulty in modern replication experiments. It is worth noting, however, that modern experimenters necessarily start their work with no experience of faience production and so lack the years of expertise of the ancient practitioners. As a result, some of the difficulties inherent in the process are more obvious than they would have been in ancient times. <>

Large and Middle-Size Ancient Egyptian Faience Objects

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “Larger items, such as vessels, might be formed around a core of straw or other plant materials (as with some of the “hedgehog” figures from the Middle Kingdom), or modeled or molded in sections that were joined together (such as some of the chalices of the New Kingdom and later). There is debate about whether the potter’s wheel was used to make vessels, although Vandiver believes that it was employed from the New Kingdom onwards. In her study, Vandiver found no evidence for clay being added to the body of the vessel to increase its plasticity, but has subsequently stated that 5 - 25 percent clay was added, and that 10 percent is sufficient to facilitate throwing. Wheel throwing has been argued for the Ptolemaic and Roman periods in particular, when clay may have been included in the faience body, but there has been no agreement about whether the wheel was actually used. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]


underside of a faience hippo

While faience was mostly used for the production of small items, it was also sometimes used in the production of larger pieces. One of the largest of these is a scepter inscribed for Amenhotep II found by Petrie at Naqada in 1894. The piece measures 2.158 meters in length, but is made by joining shorter sections together with faience paste. Also made for Amenhotep II is a large sphinx, 250 mm long and 140 mm high, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art . The same collection includes a faience lion holding a captive chief of Kush. Its height (0.70 m) and bulk make it among the largest pieces known. The site of Qantir has yielded a great deal of evidence for faience production and some particularly fine pieces. <>

“These large pieces are well known because they are exceptional in scale. However, there is an extensive size-range of objects between these and the smallest faience items, such as rings, beads, and amulets. Perhaps most common in this middle category are tiles. From Amarna and other New Kingdom sites we have many tiles probably intended for inlaying (e.g., into furniture or as decorative architectural elements). Some of these are the elaborate polychrome tiles — yet to be satisfactorily replicated — representing naturalistic subjects from the Amarna Period, as well as tiles representing the “Nine Bows” from Ramesside times. Other tiles are polychrome by virtue of deliberate and obvious inlay; these include the well-known “daisy tiles,” in which white and yellow flowers are set into circular voids in the green background, good examples of which are to be found in the Metropolitan and Petrie museums. <>

“A less obvious form of “tile” is the hieroglyph inlay, or sculptured piece. These can be quite large and represent individual hieroglyphic signs, or parts of the human body (hands and heads, for example), which would be used to make up composite figures for inlay into walls or furniture. A number of such pieces have survived from the vitreous- materials workshop recently excavated at Amarna.” <>

Glazing and Coloring Ancient Egyptian Faience

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “There are three known methods of faience production. However, as Vandiver has pointed out, the tendency of scholars to concentrate on the glazing method has sometimes obscured our view of change in the faience production process. ...It should be borne in mind that glazing techniques might sometimes be combined and individual objects might thus exhibit a confusing mixture of methods. For example, because faience paste is thixotropic and often loses detail (such as impressed hieroglyphs) as it dries, faience workers were sometimes able to restore definition by abrasion, thereby removing part of the effloresced surface. Such surface damage could be retouched using a thin solution of the efflorescent body material, i.e., a solution of the body material that contains the glazing constituents. Accordingly brush marks or secondary efflorescence layers might be introduced. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]

“The earliest faience is invariably blue or green, exhibiting the full range of shades between these two colors. The coloring material was usually copper. From the New Kingdom onward, however, the color palette was extended, probably following the introduction of glass into Egypt. Kühne believed that ground glass might have been added to the faience body, thereby increasing the range of colors as well as increasing the strength of the material. Vandiver later took the same view. <>

“More recent work by Shortland, particularly on the material called by Lucas “Variant D,” has shown that the composition does not match that of glass, and that its addition is therefore unlikely. It is possible that the glassy phase may result from the addition of colored frit to the faience mixture. (Frit is a mixture of the ingredients of glass that have been incompletely reacted together; it is a material in its own right and can be used as a pigment or for making objects.) It is certainly true, however, that glass may have been used as an ingredient in applied glazes, especially for yellows and lime greens. Other colors were produced using transition metals such as red iron oxide. Cobalt could be used for dark blues. Whatever the main glaze color, black manganese was commonly used to add detail, such as the hieroglyphs and decorative patterns frequently seen on otherwise plain objects.” <>

Glazing Methods for Ancient Egyptian Faience


faience broad collar from Amarna

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “The the three basic glazing methods used in ancient Egypt are: 1) Application, 2) Efflorescence and 3) Cementation.. Application “is the method by which Petrie assumed all faience was made. He derived most of his information for this view from the examination of surface material at Memphis and, later, from actual excavation there. His reconstruction of the process was aided by what he knew of the manufacture of glazed ceramics in his own time. In the application method an object made of faience body material is coated with a slurry or a powdered glaze, usually before firing. This coating material contains (or is itself) the colorant, which might be copper or Egyptian blue. It is allowed to dry on the object, and once the object is fired, the coating becomes fused to give a shiny glaze. The overall coating also serves to strengthen the object and, in the case of containers intended for liquids, to make it waterproof. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]

“The application method of glazing was particularly common in Ptolemaic and Roman times. At the Roman-Period site of Kom Helul at Memphis, Petrie found the remains of cylindrical containers known as “saggars,” in which stacks of vessels were placed during firing. The vessels were placed one inside the other, separated by small cones of clay (each cone’s point rested on the inside of the vessel beneath, while the cone’s broad end was attached to the stand ring of the vessel). After firing, the stack of vessels would be removed from the saggar by breaking away the cones. The cone-point would leave only a pin-prick mark in the glaze, while the breaking away of the broad end of the cone would leave a scar on the vessel’s stand ring, where it would not normally be visible. The saggars themselves became glazed over time and it is common to find examples whose interior is coated in, for example, dark blue glaze, but whose underside is light blue. This is a consequence of the fact that the saggars were stacked one above the other, as a result of which the underside of a saggar would reflect the glaze color of the saggar beneath it, while the saggar’s interior walls bore the color of the vessels stacked inside. <>

“The marks left on the glazed objects by the cones are a clear indication that glazing was carried out by application, as are brush marks, drips and runs of glaze, and occasional finger marks left on the objects as the glaze slurry dried. If too much glaze was used, or the firing was at too high a temperature, or for too long a time, glaze sometimes became too liquid and so pooled in the bottom of vessels, leaving a thick layer. It can be very difficult for the archaeologist to determine glazing methods—even where it is possible to examine a cross section, as in a sherd, and the problem is compounded when examining complete objects, although application leaves the clearest macroscopically detectable indications. The scanning electron microscope (SEM) is the most reliable method for determining glazing technique and, in the case of application glazing, shows, in the cross section, a clear layer of glaze upon the faience body. <>

“Efflorescence. This seems to have been the most common method of producing a glaze during the Pharaonic Period and is especially prevalent from at least the New Kingdom onward. In this method the materials of the faience body (paste) are mixed with the coloring material (frequently copper). The mix is prepared wet and can thus be shaped into an object, often by being pressed into a mold. As the object dries, an effloresced “scum” layer develops on the surface of the object. <>

“After firing in the kiln, this effloresced coating forms the colored glaze. Because the ingredients are mixed throughout the body material, rather than simply added to the surface of an already-made object, the heating causes them to fuse together and create a substantial glassy phase. (It will be recalled that faience is essentially the same as glass in its composition, and so contains materials that develop a glassy phase.) The alkali acts as a flux in faience pastes, allowing the silica to fuse at lower temperatures than would otherwise be possible. The greater amount of fluxing materials in effloresced paste—as compared to that in the other two methods of glazing faience pastes—helps to create interparticle glass (rather than interstitial glass: see Vandiver 1998: 124), which helps to bind the silica together and so produce a stronger object. By this method it became possible to produce finger rings of sufficient strength to be worn. Vandiver states: “Faience bodies are the complex process of glassmaking stopped in the middle as described by a narrow range of variables. Glazes on faience bodies are the glass forming reactions carried to completion.”

The efflorescence technique is well attested at Amarna (where there are molds covered in effloresced paste), but was not recognised by Petrie, who thought that all faience was made using application. The technique was not generally noted until the 1960s, when Kühne produced a paper on this “self-glazing” technique. Since no glaze is actually added to the finished object, there are no brush marks or finger marks present from this technique, nor are there usually stand marks from kiln furniture (such as cones). However, some pieces do seem to have stood on undulating surfaces in the kiln; as a result, some marks may be found even on effloresced pieces. A clearer indication of the technique is that the glaze will be thinnest on those parts of the object where air was least able to circulate during drying. This is usually the underside, where the piece was set to dry on a board or other surface where the air could not easily circulate to produce an effloresced surface. As a result, the glaze on the underside of an inlay or vessel is often very poor and erratic; since it would not normally have been seen, it was likely unimportant to the makers. When examined under a SEM, it is obvious that there is a great deal of interparticle glass between the silica grains and that this extends to the surface, where it forms the glaze. Although this glassy phase is usually most extensive at the surface, it is present throughout. <>

“Cementation. This method of glazing only became known to archaeologists in the 1960s, when Wulff, Wulff, and Koch (1968) discovered it being practiced in the (contemporary) town of Qom in Iran, the site after which it takes its alternative name, the “Qom Technique.” In this method the silica making up the faience body material, along with alkali, is shaped to produce the object. Once dry, the object is placed in a container tightly packed with a powdered mixture—the glazing material—comprising lime, ash, silica, charcoal, and a colorant. A range of mixtures of these ingredients has been shown to yield a glaze. Once again this is a soda-lime-silica glaze, but its method of transfer to the object is markedly different in that it glazes by reaction with the object’s silica core, rather than by being directly applied to it. After the object has been buried in the glazing powder, the container is then placed in the kiln and fired. During the firing process there is a reaction between the surface of the object and the powder around it, whereby the object becomes glazed. Interestingly, the glazing powder not in direct contact with the silica does not become fused into a glaze, but remains as powder and can be crumbled away from the object after firing. <>

“Faience objects glazed by cementation have, of course, no brush marks, drip marks, or stand marks, and the technique is therefore extremely difficult to determine with confidence on a fragmentary hand specimen. Under a SEM the glaze can be seen to penetrate a little way into the silica body, which is otherwise unaffected, in marked contrast to the thick layer of what is essentially pure glaze on applied pieces, or the interparticle glass of effloresced examples.The cementation technique is thought to have occurred in Egypt from at least as early as the Middle Kingdom but is not well attested, perhaps because relatively few pieces have been scientifically examined and because it is difficult to detect with certainty.” <>

Firing Ancient Egyptian Faience


recreating a faience kiln

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “It has generally been assumed that faience was fired at temperatures of 800 – 1000°C. This is likely to be true for many pieces, whether they were prepared in a kiln or fired in the open. Unlike unglazed pottery, faience pieces tend to stick together if they come into contact with each other during firing. This can leave pieces adhered to one another in such a way that they are difficult to separate. As a result, it has usually been assumed that they were fired on trays or in saggar vessels. It is known that saggars were used in the Roman production at Memphis, and it is possible that they were also employed in the firing of some New Kingdom material. The cylindrical vessels believed to have been used for the production of glass ingots at Amarna may also have been used as small saggars for the firing of faience objects. However, the faience objects could not be set directly upon the ceramic surface during firing or they would also stick to that. It is likely that lime or possibly quartz pebbles were used as a separating layer. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]

“It may be that scholars are sometimes overly focused on the scale and temperature of faience production; indeed the work of Eccleston has shown that it would be possible to manufacture faience in a simple bread-oven. Although he fired at temperatures of 800 – 900°C it is possible that a longer firing at a lower temperature might have yielded similar results, and we should be aware that small-scale production in particular might require the minimum use of materials. Although much more research needs to be done on the firing temperatures of faience, Vandiver has made some progress in this direction, noting that specimens fired at higher temperatures generally have smooth glaze, rounded bubbles, and greater penetration of glaze into the body. <>

“Firing structures for faience are not well known. The surviving evidence is summarized in Nicholson and Peltenburg. A series of pits, some lined with broken bricks, at Abydos, dating from the mid-Old Kingdom into the Middle Kingdom, forms the earliest known evidence for purpose-built firing structures. These pits may have operated at temperatures below those normally quoted, but this remains speculative. <>

“For the Middle Kingdom there is production evidence from Kerma in Nubia and from Lisht, although there is uncertainty as to whether a structure found at Lisht is a Middle Kingdom kiln or a later (intrusive) silo. Evidence for kilns is better for the New Kingdom and several possible candidates are known from Amarna site O45.1. However, it must be stressed that these latter could simply be pottery kilns. It is quite possible that faience firings took place in these, or indeed in the structures identified as possible glass kilns, since several craft- working facilities are located in close proximity. The best evidence comes from the massive Roman- Period furnaces excavated by Petrie at Memphis. These seem to have been square or rectangular in form, unlike the smaller ovoid kilns of the New Kingdom, and would have held large quantities of material in saggars. Based on inclusions in the slaggy waste material, Petrie stated that they were fired using straw; this evidence is currently being reviewed. The scale of these kilns or furnaces is such that they may have been fired at high temperatures for prolonged periods, but we should be cautious in applying existing evidence to earlier periods and to smaller scales of production.” <>

Faience Kilns


faience monkey

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “Faience kilns are sometimes referred to as furnaces by archaeologists, because it is assumed that they operated at very high temperatures, and also perhaps because in Roman times they could be very large. In fact the temperatures necessary for firing faience were usually well within the temperature range of terracotta firing (maximum 1000°C).[Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UK, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2010, escholarship.org <>]

“Pharaonic faience was fired in numerous ways—many of them akin to the methods used to produce pottery. At Abydos, for example, there is evidence for the open firing of faience during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period, as well as for a possible kiln or firing structure . There is also a possible kiln from Lisht, where a faience- making area was identified. <>

“Much more evidence for faience production is available for the New Kingdom, not least from el-Amarna; however, there is some uncertainty about the kilns themselves. Nicholson has identified possible faience kilns at el-Amarna site O45.1, but these are of the same design as pottery kilns and their attribution to faience remains tentative. Since they occur at a locality where faience as well as pottery is known to have been made, and since both faience and pottery kilns would have operated within the same temperature ranges, they cannot definitely be ascribed to the faience-making operation. It would not be surprising to find that pottery and faience were sometimes fired in the same kilns, albeit not at the same time, since different temperatures might have been required and/or because saggars might have been needed for the faience. The excavators at el-Amarna also found large updraft kilns at O45.1, which they believe were used for firing glass. These structures, too, could have served for faience production, fired to a lower temperature than that required for the reacting together and subsequent melting of glass. <>

“At least some of the faience may well have been fired in saggars (see above) during the New Kingdom and later, and these are very well attested from the Roman Period at the site of Kom Helul, Memphis. Here Petrie recorded very substantial rectangular kilns, sunk up to c. 5 meters into the ground. These are currently being reinvestigated. <>

Glass in Ancient Egypt

Glassmaking — in the form of making beads ---- was known in ancient Egypt as far back as 2500 B.C. Whether this is real glassmaking is a matter of debate. The Egyptians created lovely glassware. They made delightful tiny glass vases, tall-rim jars adorned with flamingos. Before glassblowing was developed in the 1st century B.C. “core glass” vessels were made by forming the glass around a solid metal rod that was taken out as the glass cooled. Some have suggested that the bottle was invented sometime around 1500 B.C. by Egyptian artisans.

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “Glass in ancient Egypt appeared in the New Kingdom (1550–1070 B.C.). It was a novel and highly prized material, which quickly found favor with the elite. The first known glass sculpture in the round depicted the Egyptian ruler Amenhotep II. The purposes for which glass was used overlap with those traditionally known for objects made in faience, and both materials can be regarded as artificial versions of semiprecious stones, notably turquoise, lapis lazuli, and green feldspar. The techniques by which glass was worked in the Pharaonic period fall into two broad groups—the forming of vessels around a friable core, which was subsequently removed, and the casting of glass in molds to make solid objects. The vessels produced by core forming were almost invariably small, a matter of a few centimeters in height, and were mainly used for precious substances such as unguents. Cast items included sculpture as well as inlays and small amulets. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2011, escholarship.org <>]


earings

“Although there are reports of examples of glass dating before the New Kingdom, most of these are unconfirmed or uncertain, and one must distinguish between glass, which was intentionally produced, and that arrived at “accidentally.” To this latter category should be assigned small objects of glass, which were actually intended as faience but which have lost their silica core and so become glass. Since the basic ingredients of glass and faience are the same (silica, lime, and soda), it is not surprising to find some blurring of the groups when particular heating conditions occur. <>

“As a new material in Egypt, glass of the New Kingdom seems to have enjoyed a relatively high status. Indeed, some of the earliest pieces we know about bear the names of Hatshepsut (clear colorless name beads) and of Thutmose III (vessels); it seems to have been regarded as a material suitable for royal gifts, such as shabtis. Apparently glass sculpture in the round is an Egyptian innovation. It is commonly suggested that glass might have been a royal monopoly during the New Kingdom. However, this is an oversimplification, and Barry Kemp has pointed out that we know of no such concept nor of sumptuary laws for Egypt at this time. Nonetheless, it does appear that the actual making of raw glass might have been under state control at least until the end of the 18th Dynasty. That individuals of lower status gradually gained increasing access to glass should not be surprising. As the material became more common, it was used for a greater range of items and spread beyond the upper echelons of society. <>

Glass-Making in Ancient Egypt

Joel R. Siebring of Minnesota State University, Mankato wrote: “Glass-making technology initially began in Egypt with the manufacture of small beads in the pre-dynastic era. There is little or no evidence of glass technology until the XVIII Dynasty. The technology was a result of the process of firing clay pots. The sand and slag utilized in making clay pots melted together to make glass. Early examples of glass manufacture were in the form of beads made from the glass nuggets. It was determined that when metal oxides were added to the glass nuggets, various color hues resulted. The foundattion for this technology may have been in the development of bronze technology, adding different elements to copper to make bronze. There is also early evidence for glass blowing.” [Source: Joel R. Siebring, Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com]


Egyptian glass jar

Andrew Shortland of Cranfield University wrote: “Glass production starts in the second half of the sixteenth century B.C.. Glass was produced from the combination of quartzite pebbles with a plant ash flux, usually with the addition of copper, cobalt, antimony or manganese colorants, and opacifiers. The earliest surviving glassmaking workshop is a subject of debate since archaeological evidence for glass production is rare and often equivocal. No glassmaking factories have yet been found in Mesopotamia or Northern Syria, but several candidates are known from ancient Egypt, including the sites of Malqata, Amarna, and Qantir. This is still very much a topic of current research, both through archaeological investigation and scientific analysis. [Source: Andrew Shortland, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, UK, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]

“Objects of glass first appear in the archaeological record of Egypt in the reign of Thutmose III. The origin of the invention of glass is not clear, with both Egypt and Mesopotamia being proposed. However, the earliest datable glass and hence glass production seems to come from Mesopotamia in the last half of the sixteenth century B.C.. It seems to be imported into Egypt for the first time in quantity as tribute following the successful campaigns of Thutmose III in the early years of his reign. Evidence for the production of glass is rare in the archaeological record of any period, but especially of the earliest eras. There may be several reasons for this rarity—perhaps there were initially a very small number of factories and perhaps of limited extent. However, one of the major reasons for their rarity has probably to do with the difficulty of identifying such facilities. The production of glass objects can be divided into two clear stages: glassmaking and glassworking. “Glassmaking” is the production of glass from the raw materials, whereas “glassworking” is the transformation of raw glass into finished objects. Theoretically, these could both be done in the same place, but in practice, in the ancient world, they seem to have often been split into two different sites. Long range trade in raw glass is supported by the late fourteenth century B.C. Uluburun shipwreck. Its cargo included at least 175 glass ingots; judging from their chemical composition, many, but not all, of them were manufactured in Egypt. To date, no glassmaking factory has been found in Mesopotamia at all, but there are several proposed in Egypt, as discussed below. <>

Raw Materials for Making Glass in Ancient Egypt

Andrew Shortland of Cranfield University wrote: “The main raw material for glass production is silica, thought to be in the form of quartzite pebbles in the case of Egyptian glasses. These pebbles have a very high melting temperature, around 1700°C. In order to produce a glass from them, a plant ash flux is added. This lowers the temperature for the production of glass to around 1100°C, which was achievable in an ancient furnace. Almost all of the glass in Egypt was colored and frequently opacified. Light and mid-blue glasses were produced from copper in the form of bronze or copper scale, which was added to the melt. Lead isotopic analysis suggests that the copper colorant has the same source as the copper used in Egyptian tools and weapons. [Source: Andrew Shortland, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, UK, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]

“Darker blue glasses were often made with a cobalt colorant; this colorant has a particular pattern of trace element impurities (high alumina, manganese, nickel, and zinc), which has enabled the cobalt colorant to be sourced to cobalt bearing alums of the Western Oases of Egypt. The blues are the most common colors in the glasses and frequently form the body glass for the core formed vessels. The opacifier calcium antimonate occurs in white glasses, which is formed by adding antimony to the glass melt and allowing it to cool. <>

“The source of the antimony is unknown, but it is a rare element, and it is possible that the source might be as far away as the Caucasus. The lead antimonate opacifier has been identified in yellow glasses. Once again, the Caucasus may be the source of the antimony, but it is likely that the lead comes from local Egyptian mines, most notably Gebel Zeit on the Red Sea coast, which was exploited in the New Kingdom for the lead sulphide galena for use in eye pigments or kohl. Mixing blue glasses and these opacifiers gives opaque blue and green colors, respectively. The final colors in glass are pink, purple, and black—all colored with manganese of unknown source—and red, which again uses copper.” <>

Glass Production in Ancient Egypt


ancient Egyptian glass vessel

Andrew Shortland of Cranfield University wrote: ““Little is known about the way glass was produced. It is not a subject that was written about in Egyptian texts and, unusually, does not seem to be depicted in any of the fairly common tomb scenes, which show metal, pottery, or stone production. However, there is evidence in the form of texts from the Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh, the information of which is thought to date to the second millennium B.C.. These detail recipes and furnace conditions; however, many of the words used are difficult to translate and some have strong magical and religious elements, which makes interpretation of the texts difficult. The best evidence therefore comes from analysis of the glass itself and rare archaeological finds of glassworking or glassmaking factories.” [Source: Andrew Shortland, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, UK, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “The treatment of glass must be divided into two parts: the making of glass from its raw materials and its working from already processed glass. The introduction of glass blowing in the first century B.C. and the incorporation of Egypt into the economy of the Roman state radically altered the production, distribution, and status of glass. Processed glass may be in the form of ingots, newly made from the raw materials (or possibly from recycled materials), or in the form of scrap glass, known as cullet. Our present knowledge of early Egyptian glass does not usually allow us to differentiate glass made from new materials from that made from cullet. However, because vessel glass was frequently polychrome, it would be difficult to recycle, unless vessels and other products were first separated by color (such as some inlays, beads, etc.). A glass ingot from Amarna, now in the collection of the Liverpool University Museum, may be the result of remelting/recycling of glass, but this is by no means certain—recycled glass is not necessarily obvious in macroscopic examination. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2011, escholarship.org <>]

“The earliest glass in Egypt was probably imported from elsewhere in the Near East, and since much of that production was for polychrome vessels, it is unlikely that it was recycled. Similarly, the very earliest local production in Egypt would have used freshly produced glass, though we should not rule out limited recycling of single color glass, particularly since this was a precious raw material. By the time the beakers of Neskhons (wife of Pinedjem II) of the 21st Dynasty were produced, it is possible that recycled glass, albeit of a new natron-based composition, may have been in use. However, although the Neskhons pieces lack the quality of earlier vessels, analysis of their composition has not suggested recycling.” <>

Glassworking Production in Ancient Egypt

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “While glass itself was a new material in Egypt and as such seems to have enjoyed a high status, it was not used in the creation of innovative forms. Glass seems rather to have been regarded as an extension of faience and, perhaps by implication, of semiprecious stones such as turquoise, lapis lazuli, and green feldspar. The connection between these materials is probably through color and brilliance. Faience was regarded as a substitute for semiprecious stones, not necessarily inferior to them but of a different and artificial material. All carried connotations of the heavens and the brilliance of the skies. Since the body color of much of the earliest glass is also blue, it seems to have been regarded as yet another representation of this heavenly blue brilliance. That such was the case is probably reflected in the term “Menkheperura (i.e. Thutmose III) lapis lazuli” for a material believed to be glass, given in the Annals of Thutmose III at Karnak and sharing the color of the semiprecious stone. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2011, escholarship.org <>]

“It is possible that the association with precious stones might have led to the production of vessels in shapes that were already produced in faience, itself imitating forms known in stone. In other words, artificial stones such as faience and glass were used to make traditional stone vessel shapes. However, these shapes are not ones normally found in turquoise, lapis, or feldspar, but more commonly in travertine/calcite (Egyptian “alabaster”) or hard stones, and one must consider why this should be. <>

“A possible answer may be found in the history of these materials. Once faience started to be developed, one of the means by which it could be shaped was by abrasion, essentially “carving” from a block of material, albeit often a partly shaped block. From small vessels, the kind of things which lapidaries (gemstone cutters) may have produced in semiprecious stone, to larger vessels is a relatively small step. These larger faience imitations of stone were being made in the typical blue color, so it would be logical for glass vessels, also usually in blue base glass, to follow this tradition. <>

“Further support for the idea that glass followed the traditions established by faience makers may come from the way in which glass first arrived in Egypt. Both Petrie and Oppenheim believe that its making may have been introduced by glassmakers brought to the country as captives from the Near East. If this was so, and they were induced to establish a new industry, it is most likely that they would be integrated among Egyptian specialists who worked on material that shared some of the properties and technology of glass—the makers of the artificial precious stone: faience. The work of Petrie at Amarna makes it clear that faience and glassmaking/glassworking activities went on in close proximity to one another, a finding confirmed by the recent work by the Egypt Exploration Society. Part of this technological link is probably the use of heat in the final stage of production. <>

“It is interesting to note also that some of the earliest glass vessels were treated as though they were of stone in that, after casting, they were drilled to make them hollow. These pieces seem to belong to the phase in which glass was coming into Egypt perhaps in the form of ingots from the Near East, or was first being made locally at a time when its properties were still not fully understood. Thus we have an artificial, high-tech material being treated as though it were stone. This combination of working practices and the embedding of a new craft into an old established one is an area that requires further research.” <>



Cold Working Glassworking in Ancient Egypt

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “However the earliest raw glass arrived in Egypt, be it as ingots or as locally made glass, the earliest stages in its manufacture into objects require heat at some stage. In order to make useful objects, raw glass would have been reheated and cast, probably into blocks with the approximate shape of the desired object. The glass would then have been annealed, an essential process in glassworking involving the slow cooling of the glass object, be it glass block or glass vessel. This cooling process allows the stresses developed in the hot glass to be gradually reduced and released so that the cooled object will not shatter. A piece of glass, which is simply put aside to cool in the workshop, would quickly crack or explode. Annealing may take place in a chamber to the side of, or above, the main furnace or might be carried out in a separate structure. It may take several days to anneal large pieces. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2011, escholarship.org <>]

“The earliest glass, once it had been annealed, was worked cold. The interior of a vessel might thus have been drilled out using a bow drill, probably with a copper cylinder as the drill bit just as Stocks has demonstrated for stoneworking. This practice would have to have been carried out with great care because glass, like other siliceous materials such as flint, will fracture conchoidally (shell shaped), and glass spalls around the drill would be difficult to disguise. It is notable that the edges of rims and feet on early glass vessels including a kohl pot, which was made in this way, are often covered in sheet gold, perhaps covering areas where the glass was prone to chipping in use or where it had been damaged during the polishing stage of the operation. <>

“The casting and cold working of glass was not confined to the earliest phases of Egyptian glass history. However, its use in the manufacture of hollow forms seems to have been limited to its earliest phase. In the later reign of Tutankhamen, the technique of casting and cold working was used to produce two headrests. One of these, in dark blue glass and with an incised inscription, had the edge of the upper part covered by sheet gold, while that in light blue glass was made in two parts joined by a wooden dowel, the join being covered by a band of gold foil. Both would have required very careful working by skilled lapidaries after the form was cast in glass.” <>

Hot Working Glassworking in Ancient Egypt

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “The other main branch of the glassworking technique is to use heat in the active shaping of the object, that is to “hot work” it. Gathering. At its simplest, this involved gathering a small blob of glass from the furnace and then piercing it to form a bead. This was most easily achieved simply by gathering the glass around a rod so that it was ready-pierced. The shape of the bead was manipulated with tools and by rolling it on a flat surface known as a marver. Thus beads of spherical, cylindrical, or faceted shapes could be produced. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2011, escholarship.org <>]

“A hot thread of molten glass could also be drawn out from the furnace, allowed to solidify, and then be gently reheated in order to be shaped. In this way the simple earrings of the New Kingdom might have been produced, along with items such as applicator rods for kohl vessels and similar straightforward/plain pieces. Like all glass objects, once shaped and, in the case of beads, removed from their rod, they would need to be annealed. <>



“Molding/Slumping. In Pharaonic Egypt, molding or slumping was used to produce open form vessels, represented by the conglomerate glass pieces known from Malqata and elsewhere. Here fragments of glass of different colors were placed together and heated so that they fused together into a single continuous plane. They were perhaps first fused into a disc or oval shape and then reheated so that the fused disc slumped over a form or into a mold, forming a dish or bowl. Glass pieces could also be heated together in a mold, though this would be more difficult to achieve satisfactorily. A rim, in the form of a softened glass rod, was sometimes added to the vessel. This technique might be regarded as the origin of what was to become mosaic glass, a specialty of the Roman Period.The making of inlays and occasionally of amulets was apparently achieved by using open-face molds just as in the production of faience. The molds were probably made of fired clay or, more rarely, stone and have not been discerned with certainty from those used for faience. <>

“Lost wax. There remains the question of the manufacture of small items such as amulets and inlays other than those that may have been made in open-face molds. A few small pieces in the round exist and seem to have been made by the lost wax process. In this method, a wax image of the object was produced and had clay pressed around it. The object was then heated, which fired the clay and melted away the wax leaving a void in the shape of the object. The void was then filled with the intended medium for the object—in this case glass. The lost wax technique is best known for casting gold or copper alloy, where the medium is very fluid, and would not be particularly well suited to glass, where the medium is quite viscous. It may be that powdered glass was continually added to the heated mold until it was filled, in this way small items can be produced without the risk of trapping large air bubbles. Whatever means was used, the finished object would require considerable retouching. Shabtis made in glass might have been produced by the lost wax process, but this is uncertain, and Cooney states that they were extensively reworked after casting in whatever kind of mold was used.” <>

Core Forming Glass in Ancient Egypt

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “Core forming. A process known as core forming was the most widely used method for producing glass vessels from the New Kingdom into Hellenistic times. It was a more difficult and time consuming operation than simple gathering and became the common process for making glass vessels once the properties of glass were better understood and confidence in its use had been achieved. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2011, escholarship.org <>]

“In this method a core made from clay mixed with dung and plant fiber was shaped in the form of the vessel interior. It was formed around a handling rod, which allowed the piece to be manipulated. This core was then dried and coated with glass. The exact means of coating has been subject to much debate, with some researchers suggesting that the core was rolled in powdered glass or covered by the application of chunks of softened glass. It has also been suggested the core was dipped into a pot of molten glass or that molten glass was trailed onto the core. Whatever means was used, the glass was then rolled on a marver (smooth stone slab) to give it a more even thickness over the core and get the basic shape of the vessel exterior. This process required many reheatings of the core and the glass surrounding it and much work at the marver. <>

“Once the core had been covered and a fairly uniform thickness of glass achieved, decorative trails might have been added to the vessel body. This was done by softening rods of glass and marvering them into the body. By using a blade to draw the trails up or down the body, it was possible to form them into chevrons or swags, common patterns on Egyptian glass vessels. Rims were added to core formed pieces by using pincers to draw glass from the vessel wall or by adding rings of glass to the top of the vessel. Such rims were sometimes embellished by adding a trail of glass in a contrasting color. The same technique could be used for adding a foot to a vessel, while handles were made by adding a gather of glass to the vessel wall. <>

“The whole object, still containing its core, would then be allowed to anneal slowly. This did not, of course, complete the process and some skill was still required in order to remove the core. Removal of the handling rod, probably at the point when the piece was placed in the annealing oven, left a void at the axis of the core, and this could gradually be enlarged by abrading the friable material inside the vessel away. By careful abrasion most of the core could be broken up and tipped out through the neck of the vessel. The contact zone between the vessel and the core inevitably preserved part of the core; this can regularly be observed under the shoulders of broken vessels. While most ancient Egyptian glass is opaque or translucent rather than transparent, this lack of clarity is no doubt added to by the remains of the core. <>

“It is possible that the need to use a core, and the knowledge that it could not be fully removed, may have encouraged the use of strongly colored body glasses rather than the development of transparent colorless glass. The name beads of Hatshepsut and Senenmut indicate that such glass could be made in the ancient world at an early date, but did not find use in vessels.” <>

Glass Use and Discard in Ancient Egypt

Paul Nicholson of the University of Wales wrote: “The purpose of glass objects has already been touched upon, namely as items of personal adornment, inlays, and containers. For small items of adornment the use of glass was essentially identical to that of faience and even stone—serving as beads or amulets whose color and shape had particular symbolic or decorative importance. However, at least in its earliest phases, glass was a new material, apparently conjured up from unlikely raw materials, which alone shared few if any of the properties of the finished item. The seemingly miraculous quality of this rare new material may have given glass a status above that of faience, making it a prestige product destined for the use of the high elite of Egyptian society. [Source: Paul Nicholson, University of Wales, Cardiff, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2011, escholarship.org <>]



“The only items of glass sculpture in the round, which are known from ancient Egypt, were associated with pharaoh or his highest officials. That figures of the king or shabtis for his nobles were made in the material emphasizes its importance as well as its acceptance as a substitute, though not an inferior one, for faience or stone. Glass had a status, which rendered it suitable for the afterlife as well as the earthly one. This view is further reinforced by the use of glass inlays in the gold mask of Tutankhamen rather than lapis lazuli and the manufacture of head rests for his tomb in glass. The use of materials in the ancient world cannot be judged by the value we place on them today—just as the iron in Tutankhamen’s tomb was a novel, high-tech material, so glass seems to have enjoyed royal approval as a new and fascinating product. <>

“The use of glass containers was associated with expensive contents. Vessels served to hold perfumes, oils, and unguents rather than common items. Indeed, the use of glass simply as a convenient and quickly produced container is a result of glassblowing, a technique introduced in Roman times from the first century B.C.. The time taken to produce a glass vessel by the core forming technique meant that each was an individually crafted work of art, whose form and appearance may well have been as important and as valued as the contents. <>

“The questions of glass discard and recycling have not been studied for ancient Egypt. There has been little work on the question of discard of materials in general. What is clear is that the earliest glass had a considerable value, and most of our glass finds of vessels are from funerary contexts. Multi-colored glass was difficult to recycle because the colors become merged and yield a dirty opaque glass. While the addition of a strong colorant such as cobalt might alleviate this problem, it is more likely that only monochrome glass was recycled. It might be expected that with a newly established craft, whose practitioners were few and worked in a limited number of centers, the return of broken glass to the workshops would be very limited and difficult to achieve. More likely, broken fragments might have been treasured by more low ranking individuals, pierced as beads or kept as curios. Vessels or other items, which broke at the workshops, could of course be easily recycled. Scientific examination of early glasses from Egypt is not as yet sufficiently advanced for much to be said about the occurrence or scale of recycling.” <>

Ancient Egyptian Glass Factories

Andrew Shortland of Cranfield University wrote: “Analysis of the glass has shown that there were at least two different factory sites operating in the fourteenth century B.C., at least one in Egypt and one in Mesopotamia or Northern Syria . Early glassmaking or glassworking factories have been identified at the sites of Malqata, Amarna, el-Lisht, and Qantir...Two further sites, Menshiyeh and Kom Medinet Ghurab, have been suggested as areas of glass production. However, there is considerable doubt as to the dating and function of the sites, and they “cannot feature significantly in discussions of New Kingdom glass production”. [Source: Andrew Shortland, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, UK, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2009, escholarship.org <>]

“Malqata: The site of Malqata on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes was excavated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian Expedition between 1910 and 1921. Here, within the workmen’s quarter of an extensive palace complex built by Amenhotep III, the earliest evidence for a glassmaking or glassworking site in the world was found. The excavators record finding crucible and glass slag, but the objects themselves were not retained by the museum and are thus not available for modern study. Glassworking debris, such as rods, drips, and trails, was abundant. <>

“Amarna: Petrie stated that he had found “the sites of three or four glass factories, and two large glazing works… though the actual workrooms had almost vanished” at the site of Amarna in Middle Egypt in the late nineteenth century. Regrettably, he does not state where these workshops were, but later work has shown that they lay within the southern end of the city, amongst the poorer quality housing. An Egypt Exploration Society expedition led by Paul Nicholson was working on one of these factories, O45.1, through the 1990s. Two kilns 2 meters in diameter were uncovered; they were described as thick walled and highly vitrified, with a sacrificial, regularly replaced lining, and associated with a large amount of khorfush, the local word for black ‘slag’ (in this case, the melted clay lining of the furnace, which has solidified on cooling). A third smaller kiln was found apparently associated with the other two and of a type recognized by Nicholson to be a pottery kiln. Associated with the site were frit, melted glass, glass rods, and fragments of cylindrical vessels. All of this strongly suggests that this site designated O45.1 was used for the manufacture of vitreous materials although not necessarily glassmaking. <>

“El-Lisht: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian Expedition also excavated the site of glass production at el-Lisht. This site was situated in a technological complex dated to 1295 - 1070 B.C., on the northern and eastern sides of the much earlier 12th Dynasty pyramid of Amenemhat I. Working between 1906 and the mid 1930s, they uncovered glass crucibles and slags, glass working debris in the form of rods, drips, and wasters, and a single large glass ‘ingot’. The factory seemed to be producing glass beads, rings, pendants, and inlays. Once again, significant amounts of the finds were not retained, making it difficult to interpret the function of the site. <>



“Qantir: A series of glass workshops have been hypothesized at Qantir-Pi-Ramesse in the eastern Nile Delta dating to 1250 - 1200 B.C.. This site is different to the others described above in that it has relatively little glassworking debris. Instead, it has a large number of cylindrical vessels or glass-coloring crucibles for which no domestic parallel is known. So far, about 1100 fragments have been recovered, representing a minimum of 250 to 300 vessels. One of these crucibles, 00/0344, inventory number 3108, is filled with a heavily corroded block of raw glass, which seems to represent a glassmaking charge that was abandoned before the batch material had fused completely—in effect, preserving much of the original raw material. The site seems to have specialized in the production of red glass, a color that is very rare at the other glass sites above. <>

“The Earliest Glass Factory? As discussed above, there is a distinction to be drawn between glassmaking factories and glassworking areas. Malqata, Amarna, and el- Lisht all contain significant amounts of glassworking debris, so this is what was obviously going on here. However, the presence of glassmaking is much harder to derive. It has been claimed that Qantir represents the earliest surviving glassmaking factory on the basis of the crucible described above, the only example of a glass batch preserved as a charge before being fully vitrified in the furnace. However, others have claimed that the Amarna workshop of O45.1 is a glassmaking facility on the basis of the presence of high temperature kilns and frits that appear to be colorants. Too many of the finds from el-Lisht and Malqata have been lost to enable them to be considered. This is still the subject of much research, and only further excavation and analysis is likely to resolve the issue for certain.” <>

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons except glass making Saudi Aramco and Pinterest and the map, Science magazine

Text Sources: UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, escholarship.org ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Egypt sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Tour Egypt, Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com; Mark Millmore, discoveringegypt.com discoveringegypt.com; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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