Institut français
d’archéologie orientale - Le Caire

Verre byzantin et islamiqueByzantine and Islamic Glass

Maria Mossakowska-Gaubert

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Poids en verre, fouilles de Fusṭāṭ (© IFAO)Glass weight, Fusṭāṭ excavations (© IFAO)
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WEDEPOHL, Karl Hans ; SIMON, Klaus ; KRONZ, Andreas
Data on 61 Chemical Elements for the Characterization of Three Major Glass Compositions in late Antiquity and the Middle Age
Archaeometry 53
University of Oxford, 2011, p. 81-102

[-1200, 1500]
• Sets of 20 soda ash, 16 soda lime and 23 wood ash glasses mainly from excavations in Europe were analysed by wavelength dispersive microprobe (JEOL JXA 8900 RL) and plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) for 61 elements and are presented as average concentrations with standard deviations.

• Concentrations of sodium, potassium and magnesium allow three major glass types to be identified (for approximate time periods and production areas cf. fig. 1):

– soda ash glass: made of quartz and the ash of hylophytic plans (Chenopodiaceae family) ; ash contains sodium and calcium in a weight proportion 1,4:1:
- about after 1600-600 B.C. – Mesopotamia, Egypt;
- about 700 B.C.-900 A.D. – Persia;
- since the end of 8th century – Islamic Region; since about 1200 – Europe.

– soda lime glass: made of quartz, trona from terrestrail evaporites and lime:
- about 600 B.C.- 850 A.D. – Mediterranean area [in the text “Roman Empire”];
- about 500-800 A.D. – Frankish Empire.

– wood ash glass: made of quartz and ash from beech trunks or from bulk beech trees, consisting predominantly of potasium and calcium compounds:
- about 780-1500 A.D. – Europe.

• Quartz for glass melts:

– from the age and composition of the raw materials for Roman glass in Europe it can be concluded that important proportions of raw glass for Roman glass production during the Imperial period were manufactured in Europe and not exclusively in the Near East (exemple: sand from the River Rur in the Eifel region of west Germany was used by Roman glass factories at Hambach during the late Imperial period);
– certain heavy minerals accompanying quartz sands used for glass production can be diagnostic for the source of these sands (exemple: correlations of Zr with Ti and La with Ti in soda ash glasses from Mesopotamia and Egypt).

• Alkali fluxes for glass melts:

– ash of halophytic plants:
- Chenopodiaceae family, mainly grown in semi-desert and evaporite environments, Near East and Egypt,
- alkalis are predominantly in the form of carbonates, bicarbonates and hydroxides rather than chlorides and sulphates,
- large chemical variability of the plants.

– sodium carbonate (trona):
- Wadi Natrun (Egypt): the oldest production site of sodium carbonate, active since the fourth millennium B.C.,
- trona (Na3H(CO3)2·2H2O) occurs predominantly at the rims of the evaporite zones, often accompanied by nahcolite (NaHCO3).

– ash of wood:
- ash from beech trunks or from bulk beech trees; use of fern ash as a substitute for wood ash in the region poor of wood,
- importance to recognize chemical elements specifically accumulated in plants by biogenic processes (accumulations of P, B, Ba, Mn, Cd, Sr and few other elements).

• Calcium as a glass stabilizer:
– content of more than 5% CaO (in soda ash glass) and more than 15% CaO (in wood ash glass), sufficient for stabilizing these glasses against destruction through humidity etc.
– Concentation of Sr in limestone and its 87Sr/86Sr ratio indicates the source of lime used for glass production.

• Glass colours:
– additions of c. 0.1 to 1% of metals to glass melts used to create coloured glass, exemples:
- red: Cu (Qantir, New Kindom; Brunshausen, 12th century A.D.);
- blue-green: oxidized Cu or Cu-rich bronze (Qantir, New Kingdom); Co and Cu (Höxter, 13-15th century A.D.);
- dark blue: Co and Cu (Qantir, New Kingdom; Xanten, Roman period; Höxter, prod. Venice 14th century A.D.); Co, Cu, Zn, Sn, Pb (Brunshausen, 12th century A.D.);
- green: Cu and Pb (Mayen, Roman period).

• Desideratum for the future:
– dating of various sand deposits used for the glass production by 143Nd/144Nd.
Proche-Orient Near East production
Allemagne Germany Bommersheim consommation
Bonn consommation production
Brunshausen consommation
Corvey consommation
Gellep (Gelduba) consommation
Hambach consommation production
Hilpoltsheim consommation
Höxter consommation
Lorsch consommation
Spessart consommation
Egypte Egypt Qantir (Piramesses) consommation production
Hongrie Hungary Budapest consommation
Italie Italy Venise Venice production
République Tchèque Czech Republic Znojmo Znaim consommation
Brno consommation
Suisse Switzerland Augst (Augusta) consommation

Version 5, données dudata date 30 janvier 2013January 30th 2013