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Master Craftmanship

"Basket weave" wine pitcher
Ht., 20.3 cm
Mid 4th century A.D.
Inv. MS 5494

"Are we not frailer than glass?....For even if glass is fragile, you find grandsons and great grandsons drinking out of the cups of their grandfathers and great grandfathers...." (Saint Augustine, Sermons 18.7)

Among all the domestic glassware that was produced in the Empire’s eastern provinces, this pitcher is exceptional for its complexity if decoration and technical quality. Its body was created by inflating a bulb of hot glass twice over, first inside a finely-ribbed mold, then inside one with sharp ridges. The form of handle and mouth are an imitation of a then fashionable shape in Roman silverware. (For the method of manufacture of this vessel, see Reconstruction of the Production Process.)

The only excavated parallel for this vessel is the fragment of a base found in the settling tank of a wine press at Jalame, in Israel. This site flourished as a glassmaking center during the third-quarter of the 4th century A.D., but that industrial activity ceased abruptly when local resources of wood were exhausted.


  1. Cool, H.E.M. and Price, J., 1995: Colchester Archaeological Report 8, 42-55 (Colchester: Colchester Archaeological Report).
  2. Fleming, S.J., 1999: Roman Glass: Reflections on Cultural Change, figs. E.15b, E.51 and E.52 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum).
  3. Goethert-Polaschek, K., 1988: Katalog der Romischen Glaser des Rheinischen Landesmuseum Trier, various entries (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern).
  4. Weinberg, G.D., 1988: Excavations at Jalame, 38-102 and entry 343 (Columbia: University of Missouri).