Early glassmaking centers
tend to be located close to the Mediterranean coastline: early
glassworking centers tended to develop in the suburbs of the
Empire's main citiesRome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Athens,
etc.since their marketplaces were a natural outlet for
every workshop's products. But there also were many smaller
glassmaking sites operating close to military camps and provincial
towns scattered along the coastlines of Italy, Spain, and
the eastern Mediterranean provinces; and in various villages
along the Nile, in Egypt, where natron was most
In the lands of the Western Empire from the mid-1st
century A.D. onwards, however, glassmaking workshops seem to have
been organized quite differently from their Mediterranean counterparts.
Remains of sizable furnaces at various places in the northwestern
provinces suggest that bulk stocks of glass were being produced,
but most likely not from raw ingredients. Instead, ingots were obtained
from the south via the river trade on the Rhone and the Rhine.
Such a furnace
was recently unearthed in the eastern corner of a Roman apartment
complex at Octodurus (modern Martigny), on the Rhone in Switzerland.
Its modest sizeroughly three feet squareand the
fact that it was roughly framed out just as a pit in the ground,
underscores how temporary such structures tended to be. They easily
could be churned into the foundations of a subsequent building phase
and so lost to us for ever.
Early 2nd century A.D.
1) Cool, H.E.M. and Price, J., 1995: Colchester
Archaeological Report 8, 179-206 (Colchester: Colchester Archaeological
2) Sear, F.B., 1997: Roman Wall and Vault
Mosaics, 37-43 (Heidelberg: F.H. Kerle).
3) Stern, E.M., 1991: "Early Exports
beyond the Empire," in Roman Glass: Two Centuries of Art
and Invention, 141-154, eds., M. Newby and K. Painter (London:
The Society of Antiquaries of London).
4) Wiblé, F., 1986: Forum Claudii
Vallensium, fig. 28 (Martigny: Fondation Pro Octodurum).