Perfectly Preserved 2,000-Year-Old Roman Glass Bowl Unearthed in the Netherlands

BY FRANCESCA ATON January 25, 2022 4:44pm

2,000-year-old Roman glass bowl uncovered in

A blue glass bowl estimated to be around 2,000 years old was unearthed by archaeologists excavating a site in Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands. The site is located along the Waal river, roughly six miles from the German border, and its maker may have had contact with the Roman empire.

With no visible cracks or chips bowl, the bowl remains undamaged, making it a remarkable find. It is believed to have been made in glass workshops in German cities such as Cologne and Xanten, or possibly in Italy. Archaeologist Pepijn van de Geer told the Dutch regional newspaper De Stentor, “The bowl is of Roman manufacture.”

Around the time of the bowl’s creation, Nijmegen was a Roman military camp. Later, it grew in scale and became the first settlement in present-day Netherlands to be named a Roman city, thereby granting Roman citizenship to local inhabitants.

“For the residents of the settlement on the Winkelsteeg, this bowl was a great value,” van de Geer said, adding that residents “had a great need for leather and liked to buy cattle hides.” According to one theory, locals working at outposts along the uppermost border of Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland for the Roman army would have been paid well enough to purchase a piece like the newly found bowl.

No larger than the palm of a hand, the bowl features a ridged vertical strip pattern with a rim at the top. “Such dishes were made by allowing molten glass to cool and harden over a mold,” says van de Geer. “The stripe pattern was drawn in when the glass mixture was still liquid. Metal oxide causes the blue color.”

During the excavation, the team also discovered Roman graves, homes and wells, and objects such as dishware and jewelry, all of which van de Geer hopes can be used “to tell more about these people and their way of life.” The site was being excavated in advance of a construction project for a new housing and green development in the area.

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