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The production, distribution and consumption of black glass in the Roman Empire during the 1st - 5th century AD. An archaeological, archaeometric and historical approach

Thursday, 13 September, 2012 - 09:30
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculty: Arts and Philosophy
Peter Cosyns
phd defence

The challenge of the study is to demonstrate that an integrated view of a minor segment within the Roman material culture can provide pattern(s) to further develop the understanding of the Roman imperial economy in general and that of the glass production and consumption in particular.

In the first seven chapters, we discuss one by one a series of different aspects of the production, distribution and consumption of Roman (black) glass built up from the analysis of the artefacts. Apart from the great value of the prior conclusions obtained from each approach separately, it is definitely most important to survey the archaeological and archaeometric data jointly in view of a historical approach.

Through optical spectrometry we were able to demonstrate that the colorimetry of the glass matrix corresponded to its chemical composition, and consequently the colours matched specific periods and typological groups. Additionally, the UV-Vis-NIR spectroscopy provided information regarding the technological aspects of black glass such as furnace conditions (reducing and oxidising), which helped in interpreting the bi-plots from chemical analysis (e.g., the greenish-brown low iron group).

To demonstrate the value of a holistic approach and its representativeness, we verified the production and consumption of Roman black glass from different angles by approaching the compiled data on three successive levels in economics, i.e. macro-economic; meso-economic and micro-economic level. We confront the accumulated data on Roman black glass consumption (micro-level) with the prevailing general views on the Roman glass production and consumption (meso-level). Both categories are subsequently considered vis-à-vis the Roman economy (macro-level).