Glass Origins

This glass fish was found in a fairly modest private house in Amarna, buried under a plaster floor along with a few other objects. It may once have contained ointment. The Trustees of the British Museum

We have featured stories about artisanal glass in the previous posts but this time the story is about the origins of the substance:

A Brief Scientific History of Glass

Featuring ingots, shipwrecks and an international trade in colors, the material’s rich past is being traced using modern archaeology and materials science

Blue glass ingots from the Uluburun shipwreck. Panegyrics of Granovetter / Flickr

Today, glass is ordinary, on-the-kitchen-shelf stuff. But early in its history, glass was bling for kings.

Thousands of years ago, the pharaohs of ancient Egypt surrounded themselves with the stuff, even in death, leaving stunning specimens for archaeologists to uncover. King Tutankhamen’s tomb housed a decorative writing palette and two blue-hued headrests made of solid glass that may once have supported the head of sleeping royals. His funerary mask sports blue glass inlays that alternate with gold to frame the king’s face. Continue reading

Glassy Eyed

While in Chennai about a week ago, I visited a cultural center, somewhat like a living museum, about an hour outside the city. Dakshinchitra, the name of the display, means “picture of the South” – and it lives up to its name. In addition to being a window to the past, the center, supported by an NPO, supports local artists who set up small stalls on the premises, selling their crafts directly to the buyer, eliminating dealers and price-cranking middlemen. One such artist is Mr. V. Srinivasa Raghavan – a glass blower born and bred in Tamil Nadu.

While I at first felt that the blowtorch-wielding artist was out of place in the century-old surroundings of the compound, I was soon thinking back to my historical education, remembering that glass was being manipulated as far back as the Roman Empire. The means in this case justifies the ends – perhaps the trade’s Continue reading