Ancient glass from Jordan
Glass vessels in the exhibition are mostly from Hellenistic and Roman tombs at Pella and from the city of Umm Qais (Biblical Gadara) near the Sea of Galilee.
The earliest glass dates to the middle of the third millennium BC, and is thought to have emerged from Syrian or north Mesopotamian workshops that were producing faience and other vitreous materials. By about 1600 BC, glass manufacturing in Syria-Palestine was well-established; this technology also found its way to Egypt around the reign of Tuthmosis III in 1450 BC.
Early glass vessels were produced on a core or in a mould, using opaque glass that was tinted in different colours using various metal oxides. In the 2nd millennium BC, glass was a high value, prestige material. It was often created to imitate semi-precious stones like lapis lazuli and turquoise, as the blue glass inlay on the famous gold mask of Tutankhamun illustrates.
Over the centuries, different techniques of glass working developed, but around 50 BC, the technique of glass blowing appeared which revolutionised production. Vessels and objects could be mass-produced cheaply in a much wider range of forms than previously available. Costly, time consuming glass-making paraphernalia such as moulds, cores and kilns were no longer needed. This meant that the new technology spread quickly through the Roman Empire, and owing to its low cost, functionality and appeal, gained wide popularity.
Everything from elegant jugs, perfume bottles, cups, plates and ornaments were produced. Glass vessels were used as tableware, religious items, funerary goods, trade items, souvenirs and elite gifts, amongst other things. Glass has been found in many different types of archaeological context in the Eastern Mediterranean, from settlement to temple and tomb.