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
The early Israelites engaged in trade on a local basis, exchanging agricultural products, consumer goods, and precious materials. With the rise of a national infrastructure and the influence of powerful empires in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean, trade began to occur on an international scale. During the Roman Period, for example, glass, jewelry, and wine were shipped throughout the Mediterranean basin. Trade also helped spread ideas, technologies, and artistic styles across the ancient world.
Some trade was done over land, but whenever possible, it was cheaper and faster to move goods by sea or river. Harbor cities flourished with the international trade. In the 1st century BCE, King Herod of Judaea built the city of Caesarea (named for Caesar Augustus, the first emperor of Rome) with a magnificent port.
Glass is made by melting a certain kind of sand. The earliest glass vessels were produced in the second millennium BCE using the “core-forming” method. Molten glass was molded around a clay core. After the glass hardened, the core was removed and the glass container remained. Because this was a slow, laborious method, glass was originally considered a very valuable and luxurious item.
The first century BCE saw a transition from core- and mold-formed glass to glass made by blowing into a glass bulb through a blowpipe. Although it is not clear where this technique was invented, free-blown glass vessels quickly became widespread throughout the eastern Mediterranean during the late 1st century BCE. The earliest datable examples come from Israel. The speed with which blown-glass could be produced, as opposed to core-formed, contributed to its popularity and accessibility. Soon after blown-glass was invented, glassworkers discovered it could be blown into molds, allowing mass production of bottles and highly decorated flasks. Glass became widely used and no longer the luxury it once was.