Institute of Archaeology


The natron-based glass industries

Glass made using soda from Egypt or “natron” dominated the production of the later first millennium BC through to the end of the first millennium AD and is particularly characteristic of the Roman period.  This project uses advanced analytical techniques to determine the sources of the glass (largely in the Near East), the technology of production, and the structure of the production complex.

The project has evolved through a number of sub-projects and has included: characterisation of large primary glass making centres in Israel; development of the “divided production model”; development of innovative trace element and oxygen and strontium isotope methods for the investigation of provenance; demonstration that most Roman and early medieval glass material in Britain was imported from the Near East; demonstration that individual batches of glass may be identified in both consumer assemblages and in workshops; etc.

Current sub-projects include:

  • (1) differentiation of glass made in Egypt and different parts of the Levant through trace element analysis
  • (2) origin and technology of HIMT glass through trace and isotopic analysis
  • (3) glass from wreck sites off the eastern Mediterranean coast
  • (4) glass production at Basinghall St, London[Download Analytical data for the Basinghall Street project]
  • (5) Hellenistic glass composition and production

Related outputs

  • Wardle A, Freestone I, MacKenzie M, Shepherd J (2015) Glass working on the margins of Roman London. MoLA (Purchase book)
  • Freestone I C (2015) Re-use and Recycling of Roman Glass: Analytical Approaches. Journal of Glass Studies 57, 29-40.
  • Cholakove A, Rehren Th and Freestone I C (2015) Compositional Identification of 6th c AD Glass from the Lower Danube. J Arch Sci Reports
  • Freestone, I C, Jackson-Tal R, Tal O and Taxel I (2015) Glass Production at an Early Islamic Workshop in Tel Aviv, Journal of Archaeological Science 62, 45-54.
  • Rehren Th and Freestone I C (2015) Ancient Glass: from Kaleidoscope to crystal ball. Journal of Archaeological Science 56, 233-241
  • Bayley J, Freestone I C, and Jackson C J, (2015) Glass of the Roman World. Oxbow
  • Rehren Th and Freestone I (2014) Pattern in Glass Use in the Roman and Byzantine World: A Report on Current Research at the Institute of Archaeology and UCL Qatar. Archaeology International 17, pp. 74-78, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/ai.1718
  • Barber D.J., I.C. Freestone and K.M. Moulding (2009) Ancient copper red glasses: investigation and analysis by microbeam techniques.  In Shortland A J, Freestone I C and Rehren Th From Mine to Microscope – Advances in the Study of Ancient Technology.  Oxbow, 115-127
  • Freestone I C, Wolf  S and Thirlwall M (2009) Isotopic composition of glass from the Levant and south-eastern Mediterranean Region.  In Isotopes in Vitreous Materials, eds P Degryse, J Henderson and G Hodgson.  Leuven University Press, pp. 31-52.
  • Freestone I, Price J and Cartwright C (2009) The batch: its recognition and significance, Annales 17th Congress AIHV 130-135
  • Reade W, Freestone I C and Bourke S (2009) Innovation and continuity in Bronze Age and Iron Age glass from Pella in Jordan, Annales 17th Congress AIHV 47-54
  • Tal O, Jackson-Tal R and Freestone I (2008) Glass from a Late Byzantine secondary workshop at Ramla (South) Israel.  Journal of Glass Studies 50, 81-95.
  • Freestone I, Jackson-Tal R and Tal O (2008) Raw glass and the production of glass vessels at Late Byzantine Apollonia-Arsuf, Israel.  Journal of Glass Studies 50, 67-80.
  • Tal O, Jackson-Tal R E and Freestone I C (2008) A secondary glass workshop.  In Tal O and Taxel I (eds) Ramla (South): An early Islamic industrial site and remains of previous periods.  Tel Aviv University, Salvage Excavation Reports 5, 66-76.
  • Freestone I C, Hughes M J and Stapleton C  P (2008) Composition and production of Anglo-Saxon glass, in V I Evison, Catalogue of Anglo-Saxon glass vessels in the British Museum. London, The British Museum, 29-46.
  • Freestone I (2008) Pliny on Roman glassmaking.  In Martinon_Torres M and Rehren Th (eds) Archaeology, History and Science: Integrating Approaches to Ancient Materials. University College London: Institute of Archaeology Publications, Left Coast press, Walnut Creek CA; 77-100.