- Abbey Museum Reserve Collection
- Roman province, Eastern Mediterranean, possibly modern day Syria or Lebanon
- c 1st to 3rd century AD
- D 140 mm
Millefiori (a thousand flowers) glass is a common decorative style that was popular in the Phoenician and early Roman cultures. The technique was spread widely throughout the ancient world over a vast period. Examples were even found at Sutton Hoo, a 7th century Saxon site in England. The technique was eventually lost as many ancient methods were, but was rediscovered in the 19th century and millefiori canes are now mass produced in factories worldwide mainly for jewellery. The technique itself requires the making of various drawn canes of coloured glass, called murrine which are then cut into discs or beads.
This bowl is constructed with coloured discs placed in a pattern, in this case a Jewish Menorah, and then heated on a flat tray to join the discs together. The glass pattern is then slumped over a mould to produce the bowl shape and the fringes added on the edge.
Research suggests that this is a 20th century replica in Roman style.
One of the more difficult aspects of archaeology, and by extension museum collections, is the modern reproduction of ancient artefacts that sold as authentic in various markets around the world. Often these can be easy to identify as the quality of work is far below that of the real thing. Not only that, but they tend to take forms and shapes that aren’t recorded or known from history. In rare cases, researchers are presented with reproductions or replicas that have maintained the quality and craftsmanship from days past, and to ascertain the truth, complex scientific tests usually result a far better identification.
Whether or not these objects should be considered valuable or not is a rather contentious and controversial topic. The perpetuation of the black market and exploitation of past and present cultures one of the main discussions behind the conversation. Yet many individuals rely on these activities to survive and live their lives, which gives these objects an intrinsic value of their own. Not to mention the craftsmanship that the more impressive pieces display.
The value of reproduced or imitation artefacts is yet to be fully fleshed out, but their reflection of daily life in the modern era is comparable to that of the very objects they imitate.