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Shipping Jug

Shipping Jug

Probably Italy, 1st-2nd century C.E.
  • Glass: mold-blown
  • Height: 6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm) Length: 2 11/16 in. (6.8 cm) Width: 2 5/8 in. (6.6 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of Judith Riklis, 1981-289
  • Digital image © 2006 The Jewish Museum, New York Photo by Ardon Bar Hama
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Shipping Jug

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Square and hexagonal jugs with thick walls were among the more common glass forms of the early Roman Empire. Evidence for their function and dating comes from the discovery, in the ruins of a shop at Herculaneum (destroyed in 79 CE), of a set of square jugs packed in straw in partitioned boxes ready for shipping. Square, thick-walled, mold-blown jars like this were ideal for shipping. They were strong, uniform, and could be efficiently packed. Archaeologists have not found any of these bottles with their contents intact, but it is assumed that they mostly held liquids.

This bottle was created through a process known as mold-blowing. A glassblower would blow a glob of hot glass into a wood or clay mold, and the glass vessel would take the shape of the mold. A benefit of mold-blowing was that it made possible the mass-production of utilitarian wares of uniform size and shape.

It was not possible in ancient times to make a truly colorless glass. The light blue color of the glass in this example is typical of glass made in Italy. "Clear" glass from Syria, Lebanon, and Israel had a greenish tinge.