Oldest glass production kilns found in Israel
|The kilns that were exposed right next to the train tracks |
[Credit: Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority]
The excavation of the kilns has caused great excitement in recent weeks among glass researchers throughout the world, some of whom have come especially to Israel in order to see this discovery first hand. According to Professor Ian Freestone of the University College London, who specializes in identifying the chemical composition of glass, "This is a sensational discovery and it is of great significance for understanding the entire system of the glass trade in antiquity. This is evidence that Israel constituted a production center on an international scale; hence its glassware was widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean and Europe”.
|Small fragments of the raw glass as they were found at the site |
[Credit: Shmuel Magal/Israel Antiquities Authority]
According to Abdel Al-Salam Sa‘id, the excavation direction, “We exposed fragments of floors, pieces of vitrified bricks from the walls and ceiling of the kilns, and clean raw glass chips. We were absolutely overwhelmed with excitement when we understood the great significance of the finds”.
|Glass fragments found at the site [Credit: Assaf Peretz/|
Israel Antiquities Authority]
During the Early Roman period the use of glass greatly expanded due to its characteristics: its transparency, beauty, the delicacy of the vessels and the speed with which they could be produced by blowing – an inexpensive technique adopted at the time that lowered production costs. Glass was used in almost every household from the Roman period onward, and it was also utilized in the construction of public buildings in the form of windows, mosaics and lighting fixtures. Consequently, large quantities of raw glass were required which were prepared on an industrial scale in specialized centers. The installation that was discovered in the excavation is an example of one of these ancient production facilities.
According to a price edict circulated by the Roman emperor Diocletian in the early fourth century CE, there were two kinds of glass: the first was known as Judean glass (from the Land of Israel) and the second – Alexandrian glass (from Alexandria, Egypt). Judean glass was a light green color and less expensive than Egyptian glass. The question was: Where were the centers that manufactured this Judean glass that was a branded product known throughout the Roman Empire and whose price was engraved on stone tablets so as to ensure fair trade. The current discovery completes the missing link in the research and indicates the location where the famous Judean glass was produced.
In a few months time the public will be able to see this discovery first-hand when it will be exhibited at the "Carmel Zvulun" Regional High school, in the Zevulun Regional Council.
Additional Background Information
Glass production kilns that date to the sixth or early seventh century CE were previously found at Apollonia in Herzliya and are c. 200 years later than the current discovery. The largest glass production facility from antiquity that has been found so far was exposed in the Bet Eliezer neighborhood in Hadera where it was dated to the seventh–eighth centuries CE, and the latest evidence we have of glass production in the country was revealed at Bet She‘arim (next to Khirbat ‘Asafna), dated to the late eighth and early ninth centuries CE.
The kilns that were just recently found are the earliest ones to be discovered so far in Israel. Their relatively good state of preservation will make it possible to better understand the production process. Researchers now hope that by means of its chemical composition they will be able to trace the export of the glass throughout the Roman Empire.
The raw glass industry at Khirbat ‘Asafna was part of an extensive industrial zone where there were oil presses, wine presses and a glassware workshop which was excavated in the 1960’s by an American archaeological expedition
Source: Israel Antiquities Authority [April 11, 2016]