Thursday, June 16, 2005

How Egypt turned dust into treasures of glass

MSNBC.com: "Archaeologists have uncovered for the first time the remains of a Bronze Age glass factory, where skilled artisans made glass from its raw materials. Surprisingly, this factory, which was bustling around 1250 B.C., is in Egypt rather than Mesopotamia, which is generally thought to be where glass was first made.

The oldest-known glass artifacts of consistently high quality date back to approximately 1500 B.C. These may have been made in Mesopotamia.

The most common glass objects made during this time period were glass beads and vessels with narrow necks, which may have held perfume or other valuable liquids. They were often made of blue glass, colored to emulate precious stones like turquoise and lapis lazuli, inlaid with white and yellow lines.

Most of these objects have been found in Egypt and the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that was once Mesopotamia. They were made in two separate stages.

In the primary production stage, glass was made from plant ash and crushed quartz dust into round disks or ?ingots.? In the secondary stage, the ingots were melted down and re-formed into specific objects. Many clues - such as a Late Bronze Age shipwreck off the coast of Turkey that contained a cache of cobalt-blue glass ingots - indicate that the ingots could have been made in one location and then exported to distant locations for the second stage."