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Glass groups, glass supply and recycling in late Roman Carthage

Nadine Schibille 1, * Allison Sterrett-Krause 2 Ian Freestone 3
* Corresponding author
1 IRAMAT-CEB - IRAMAT - Centre Ernest Babelon
IRAMAT - Institut de Recherches sur les Archéomatériaux
Abstract : Carthage played an important role in maritime exchange networks during the Roman and late antique periods. One hundred ten glass fragments dating to the third to sixth centuries CE from a secondary deposit at the Yasmina Necropolis in Carthage have been analysed by electron microprobe analysis (EPMA) to characterise the supply of glass to the city. Detailed bivariate and multivariate data analysis identified different primary glass groups and revealed evidence of extensive recycling. Roman mixed antimony and manganese glasses with MnO contents in excess of 250 ppm were clearly the product of recycling, while iron, potassium and phosphorus oxides were frequent contaminants. Primary glass sources were discriminated using TiO2 as a proxy for heavy minerals (ilmenite/spinel), Al2O3 for feldspar and SiO2 for quartz in the glassmaking sands. It was thus possible to draw conclusions about the chronological and geographical attributions of the primary glass types. Throughout much of the period covered in this study, glassworkers in Carthage utilised glass from both Egyptian and Levantine sources. Based on their geochemical characteristics, we conclude that Roman antimony and Roman manganese glasses originated from Egypt and the Levant, respectively, and were more or less simultaneously worked at Carthage in the fourth century as attested by their mixed recycling (Roman Sb-Mn). In the later fourth and early fifth centuries, glasses from Egypt (HIMT) and the Levant (two Levantine I groups) continued to be imported to Carthage, although the Egyptian HIMT is less well represented at Yasmina than in many other late antique glass assemblages. In contrast, in the later fifth and sixth centuries, glass seems to have been almost exclusively sourced from Egypt in the form of a manganese-decolourised glass originally described and characterised by Foy and colleagues (2003). Hence, the Yasmina assemblage testifies to significant fluctuations in the supply of glass to Carthage that require further attention.
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 8, 2021 - 2:36:03 PM
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Nadine Schibille, Allison Sterrett-Krause, Ian Freestone. Glass groups, glass supply and recycling in late Roman Carthage. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, Springer, 2017, 9 (6), pp.1223-1241. ⟨10.1007/s12520-016-0316-1⟩. ⟨hal-02025316⟩

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