- Abbey Museum Case 18
- East Mediterranean, probably Syria (Damascus) or Iran
- c 4th– 3rd century BC Persian, Syrian or Egyptian
- L 170 mm W 80 mm
Core formed glass is common in the earliest days of glass working before the blown technique was discovered. First, a mould of the inner part of the vessel is made from organic material, usually either sand or a mixture of dung and dried grass. Over this core, goes the molten glass, using whatever colours and patterns popular at the time. Once the glass has cooled slightly and the surface has been marvered, the ‘V’ pattern is added by dragging a tool through the different colours leaving colour trails over the body of the vessel. After the process is completed and the vessel is completely cooled, the organic core is scrapped out from the inside. Any extra parts such as handles or in this case, the lips, fins, and gills of the fish are then added with extra lengths of coloured glass.
Although this is possibly a modern replica, the style represents a form popular in Egypt during the New Kingdom (18th Dynasty) and is thought to be based on the Nile ‘bulti’ fish. Vessels like this are thought to have been used to store perfumes and unguents or perhaps were purely decorative.
Core-forming is one of the most interesting production methods that has almost completely disappeared in practice – without the loss of the method to time. Although some cultures continued with it for a while, the invention of the superior blown glass caused the method to decline and eventually go extinct. Unlike the majority of ancient processes however, the method is still known to science and has been replicated with success many times. Perhaps one day, other lost arts and methods of production will be rediscovered, deepening our understanding of ancient processes and daily life.
Where is it?
This artefact is on display now in case 18 as part of the Vera and Ken Windau-Heath collection. You may go back to the Exhibition Home page and browse our virtual tour.