Insula VI.I Pompeii - its glass and small finds

Items associated with the household form a very large part of the assemblage. They can be divided between vessels and furniture.  The former are dealt with on this page. The glass vessels are of particular importance for the light they throw upon the development of the glass industry during this formative period. They will be looked at here according to their manufacturing methods  First the cast vessels and then the blown ones.  An introductory background essay on the use of glass in the Roman world is available here for people not familiar with the subject.   Fragments from metal vessels were found in smaller numbers but they too show some useful chronological trends.  The small bottles in glass, pottery and alabaster can be found here.

Cast Glass Vessels

Cast glass is a shorthand term for the methods of manufacture of glass vessels before blown vessels came into wide use. The vessels were not cast in the same way that metal is cast but rather by techniques such as sagging which involves manipulating hot sheets of glass. An account of methods can be read here and this site shows experimental work on recreating the techniques.

 

A very wide range of these vessels are represented in the VI.1 assemblage starting with the types that were coming into use in the later second century BC. Fragments of a large conical bowl in good quality colourless glass were an exceptional discovery. Its large size (rim diameter  245 mm), quality of glass and type of cut lines place this with the Canosa group. These luxurious vessels are always rare. The main area in which they have been found is the part of southern Italy known as Magna Graecia so the recovery of one at Pompeii is not out of place.  They have also been identified in the wider eastern Mediterranean area.

 

 

Canosa type cast glass vessel from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Canosa type cast glass vessel from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

Large colourless bowl belonging to the Canosa group found in a post earthquake deposit in the Workshop. (Catalogue no. 5.1). The photograph shows the internal face which was wheel-cut.

(Photo: Mike Baxter).

Syro-Palestinian cast ribbed glass bowl from Insula VI.1 Pompeiii
Syro-Palestinian cast ribbed glass bowl from Insula VI.1 Pompeiii

Syro-Palestinian ribbed bowl from a modern context in the Inn. (Catalogue no. 5.41).

(Photo: Mike Baxter)

The first large scale production of glass bowls suitable for being drinking vessels is normally referred to as  Syro-Palestinian given the large numbers found in that area. The examples with grooving begin in the later second century BC and the ones with ribs slightly later. They normally occur in naturally coloured yellow/brown, yellow/green and green shades with some deliberately decolourised. The VI.1 assemblage contains a range of these vessels as well as much rarer contemporary types such as Nenna’s bowls à décor vegetal and à décor cannelé.  These are all indicative of trade connections with the eastern Mediterranean.

Polychrome pillar moulded bowl from Insual VI.1 Pompeii
Polychrome pillar moulded bowl from Insual VI.1 Pompeii

Towards the end of the first century BC vessels clearly started to be made in Italy. Versions of the grooved and ribbed bowls were produced and the colour palette increased to include the strong colours such as deep blue. There was also a much greater use of millefiori vessels using multi-coloured canes to build up the sheets of glass which were manipulated to form the vessels. The vessel above (Catalogue no. 5.52 photographed from the interior) is an example of the Roman form of ribbed bowl (often known as a pillar-moulded bowls). These generally have neater ribs than the Syro-Palestinian form. The canes which form it are unusually large. This vessel was found in an Augusto-Tiberian context in the Workshop. (Photo: Mike Baxter).

Another development of the Roman industry were vessels with angular profiles that were similar to the shapes used in metal vessels and some terra sigillata forms.  This increased the range of functions that the vessels served as they now included small dish/cup forms probably for sauces and condiments, as well as shallow platter forms for the presentation of food and items such as pyxides which were cylindrical boxes with lids, very probably for storing unguents and creams on the dressing table.

 

All of the types of cast glass from the Italian industries are very well represented in the VI.1 assemblage. It includes not only the common forms found throughout the western Empire, but also ones that may have had a much more local circulation in Italy. Certainly there are forms represented within the assemblage that have parallels within the examples in the Gorga collection in Rome so usefully catalogued by Petrianni, but rarely elsewhere.

 

Of considerable interest is the spatial distribution of the material within the insula. Over half of the assemblage of the angular cast forms were recovered from contexts within the Casa delle Vestali. There are certainly hints here that the inhabitants of this elite house were acquiring the latest fashions to grace their dining tables.

 

 

Roman reticella cast beaker from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Roman reticella cast beaker from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

A very unusual carinated cup in reticella glass (Catalogue no. 5.135) from an Augusto-Tiberian context in the Workshop. (Photo: Hilary Cool).

 

Emerald green cast glass dish of Isings Form 22 from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

Fragments from a dish of Isings Form 22 from a post earthquake contest in the Casa delle Vestali (Catalogue no. 5.122). (Photo: Mike Baxter).

Blown Glass Vessels

The discovery of how to blow glass was made in the middle of the first century BC (see here for more information). Blown vessels came to dominate by the early Tiberian period as it speeded up production and allowed a wider range of forms to be made.

 

In the section on perfume there is a discussion of the small blown bottles that dominate the VI.1 assemblage. The other types of blown vessels found in large numbers were drinking vessels. Most were simple cylindrical or hemispherical forms with cracked off rims, and decoration consisting of simple wheel-cut lines or abraded bands.  They were found in a wide range of colours and one unusual example was deep blue and decorated with small opaque white speckles of glass that stood proud of the surface, i.e. they had not been marvered flat. This is a technique used on a class of unguent bottles with three feet that are thought to have been made in the Bay of Naples area. Probably this unusual beaker was also a local product.

Abraded amber blown glass beaker from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

Amber cylindrical beaker from an Augusto-Tiberian context in the Workshop. (Catalogue 5.177).

Blue and white speckled blown glass beaker from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

Deep blue beaker with white speckles from a modern context in the Triclinium (Catalogue no. 5.226).

mould blown ribbedglass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
mould blown ribbed glass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

Mould blown ribbed cup from an Augusto-Neronian context in the Shrine (Catalogue no. 243). (Photo: Hilary Cool).

ribbed blown glass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
ribbed blown glass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
zrte Rippenschalen flass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

Another form of drinking vessel found regularly has a ribbed exterior. Very probably these were catering for the customers who expected  glass drinking vessels to be ribbed after decades of being used to using the cast ribbed bowls. Within the VI.1 assemblage there are four different styles represented. One is the well known form where the ribs are produced by being blown into a mould.  The commonest form, however, is a type that is frequently overlooked in the glass literature, or wrongly identified.  They are hemispherical cups which have a ridge on the upper body from which the ribs give the impression of hanging down. These ribs and ridges give the impression of being tooled. They have similarities with the well-known form known as zarte Rippenschalen which were additionally decorated by white glass trails, but the method of rib formation is different. The monochrome ribbed cup fragment from VI.1 occurred in strong colours such as deep blue and purple as well as natural blue/green glass and green-tinged colourless.

Left (catalogue no. 5.230) and central (catalogue no. 5.232) deep blue and blue/green fragments from monochrome ribbed cups, left (catalogue no. 5.227)fragment from a cup of the true zarte Rippenschalen family.

A noticeable feature of the VI.1 assemblage is the rarity of forms that were to form a significant part of the eruption level assemblage such as square bottles and storage jars.  This indicates that those forms must have been a very recent introduction into normal use in the AD 70s. Had they been at all common during the AD 60s it is to be expected that the levelling deposits that post-dated the earthquake would have contained many more fragments.

 

On the right the only base fragment from a square bottle in the assemblage (Catalogue no. 5.381). In total only twelve fragments could be assigned to bottles.

square glass bottle base from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

Copper Alloy Vessels

Copper alloy vessel foot from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
copper alloy vessel foot from Insula VI.1 Pompeii

Pompeii has probably the best collection of copper alloy vessels to survive from the Roman world. The collection from the VI.1 excavations was more modest. Unsurprisingly it consisted of pieces that would become easily detached such as feet or swing handles. There are numerous fittings of the type that were used in sets of three soldered on the underside of bases to raise the base of the vessel itself above contact with surfaces. Interestingly by the period of the eruption this method of protecting the base had virtually disappeared. Instead vessels were being provided by integral base rings. The change can be seen in the VI.1 assemblage with the separate feet become increasingly rare as the first century AD progresses.

 

Two types of feet are present. Catalogue no. 5.429 (above left) is an example with concave ends. It came from an Augusto-Tiberian context in the Inn. The photograph shows the remains of the lead solder that attached it to the base.  Below left is an example of the peltate form, in this case decorated with ring and dots on the terminals. It came from an Augusto-Neronian context in the Shrine. (Catalogue no. 5.437).

(Photo: Mike Baxter)

 

Contents copyright H.E.M. Cool and M.J. Baxter 2016

Canosa type cast glass vessel from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Canosa type cast glass vessel from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Syro-Palestinian cast ribbed glass bowl from Insula VI.1 Pompeiii
Syro-Palestinian cast ribbed glass bowl from Insula VI.1 Pompeiii
Polychrome pillar moulded bowl from Insual VI.1 Pompeii
Polychrome pillar moulded bowl from Insual VI.1 Pompeii
mould blown ribbedglass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
ribbed blown glass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Roman reticella cast beaker from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Roman reticella cast beaker from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Emerald green cast glass dish of Isings Form 22 from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Abraded amber blown glass beaker from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Blue and white speckled blown glass beaker from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
mould blown ribbed glass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
ribbed blown glass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
zrte Rippenschalen flass cup from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
square glass bottle base from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
copper alloy vessel foot from Insula VI.1 Pompeii
Copper alloy vessel foot from Insula VI.1 Pompeii