Beyond glassDecember 7, 2007 Roman glass
Although at times these days it seems to dominate my existence, I do have a life beyond glass …. and last Monday I spent the morning doing something completely different, talking about the archaeology of Roman London to a group of A level students at the Museum. It was a chance to think about the history of recorded discovery in London, which goes back to the 16th century and to look at some of the amazing discoveries of the 20th century, all illustrated by pictures of excavations and some of my favourite finds photographs. Excavations have revealed the physical remains of buildings but the objects found within these buildings, in rubbish dumps, in ditches and streams can help us to interpret how the people of Roman London lived, what they wore, how their houses were furnished, what they cooked with … and so on. The fruits of all this research can be seen in the displays at the Museum and in our publications.
This is one of the most interesting an unusual oil lamps found in recent years, on a site in Southwark. It is made of pottery and is moulded in the shape of a human foot, wearing an elaborate sandal. The area of soot around the big toe shows that is was not only decorative, but functional.
On Tuesday I returned to the glass project and I have now worked through about a quarter of the total number of boxes, weighing every fragment and separating out the runnels, droplets, burnt vessels, moils and all the other categories of production waste so that we can look at them in more detail later. There is quite a large amount of window glass among the cullet, collected for recycling. Window glass was a luxury, used only in the more substantial buildings and bath houses – in the early days of the city at least the windows of most private houses would have been shuttered and rather dark.
One piece of window glass from Basinghall Street is of interest as it still has mortar attached to it – evidence that it had already been used in a building, and was to be melted down with the rest of the cullet.
I have made quite good progress during the remainder of the week, and am just about on target to finish this stage by Christmas.