Ancient Egyptian glassmaking from Petrie's Tell el Amarna
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Glass manufacture at Akhetaten
54. Of the furnaces used for glass-making we have no example; but a furnace that was found near the great mould and glaze factory was apparently used for charcoal-burning, as a great quantity of charcoal was found in it, but no trace of pans, jars, or glass. This furnace (see picture on the right) was an irregular square varying from 43 to 57 inches at the sides. It was originally about 35 inches high, but the roof was destroyed. The northern door was 29 high and 15 wide, to admit the north wind, and to serve for tending the furnace on the windward side. While the south or exit door was 16 high and 13 wide, for the gases to pass off. Probably the glazing furnaces were on the same principle; and perhaps even the same furnace would be used for varying purposes.
55. Of the stages of production of the glass we
have a continuous series. The crucibles in which it
was melted were deeper than the fritting-pans; being
about two or three inches in depth and diameter.
The form is shewn by the outlines of the pieces of
glass, and most fully by piece 40, picture on the left, which
gives a section of the vessel in which it cooled. Many
such pieces of glass are found retaining the rough
surface, and even chips of the crucible adhering to
them; while the old top surface shews the smooth
melted face, with edges drawn up by capillary attraction. The upper part is often frothy and worthless.
This proves that the materials were fused in these
vessels, as the froth of carbonic acid expelled by
combination was yet in the vessel. If the glass had
been made eleswhere and then merely remelted here
it would have been clear. Moreover, by the manner
in which the crucible has in all cases been chipped off
the lump of glass after cooling, it is certain that the
glass was left to cool in the crucible; so as to
gradually let the scum rise, and the sediment sink, as
is now done with optical glass. If the glass had been
poured out, we should not have found such pieces as
these; on the contrary we ought then to have found
masses of cast glass, which have never yet been discovered. It is therefore plain that the glass after
melting was left to stand in the crucibles until the
furnace was cool; the blocks were then removed, the
crucibles chipped away, the defective parts of the
glass—scum and sediment—were chipped off, and a
clear lump of good glass was thus obtained for
56. After obtaining the lumps of clear glass these
were broken up into suitable sizes, and heated to
softness. They were then laid on a flat surface, and
rolled by a bar worked diagonally across them. This
method prevents flattening in the roll, which is liable
to occur in a pasty material if rolled at right angles
to the length.
Also a rolled paste is liable (like
hammered iron rods) to become hollow in the middle
owing to over expansion of the outside, and so to
crack up lengthways. But by pressing only a short
length at once in rolling, by a diagonal bar, the rest
of the material holds it together and tends to prevent
splitting. Again, by rolling only a small area at once,
much greater pressure can be applied, and hence the
glass could be rolled cooler, and without such risk of
flattening. The marks of the diagonal rolling are
seen on the finished rolls, as in the drawing on the right, No. 43.
57. The usual mode of bead-making was by winding a thin thread of drawn-out glass around a wire,
These wires are actually found with the beads still
stuck on them (left, 59-61). When I say wire,
I do not mean necessarily drawn wire, as wire-drawing
is not known till Roman times, if then. (The piece
of wire rope in the Naples Museum needs some
voucher for its age.) And what appears like bronze
wire, that I have found of the XVIIIth dynasty shews
facets of hammering when magnified.
58. The most elaborate use of glass was for the
variegated vases. These were all made neither by
blowing nor by moulding in moulds, but by hand
modelling. A tapering rod of metal was taken, as
thick as the intended interior of the neck; on the end
of this was formed a core of fine sand, as large as the
intended interior of the vase. The rod and core were
dipped in the melted glass and thus coated. The
coat of glass was then hand-worked; the foot was
pressed out into shape, like the pressed feet of the
Roman glass cups; the brim was turned outward;
the pattern was applied by winding thin threads of
coloured glass around the mass, and rolling it so as
to bed them into the body of the glass; the wavy
design was made by dragging the surface upward
or downward at intervals; the twisted margin of the
brim, or the foot, was made by winding one thread of glass spirally round another, and bending the two
round the vase; the handles were attached; and as
often as the glass became too cool to work in any of
these processes, the end of the rod could be just
placed into the furnace, and the half-formed vase
warmed up to working point. When the whole was
finished, the metal rod in cooling would contract
loose from the glass; it could then be withdrawn,
the sand core rubbed out, and the vase would be
Single-dragged . . . .160 Double-dragged . . . . 36 Twirled . . . . . . . 36 Eyed . . . . . . . . . 42 Spirals . . . . . . . 2 White blotches . . . . 3 Bowls . . . . . . . . 3
The single-dragged are those only dragged in one
direction on the face, forming a pattern of UUUUU;
the double-dragged are those dragged alternately in
each direction, forming a pattern of WWWW.
59. Beside the working of glass in a soft state, there was also good work in cutting and engraving. There are pieces of glass with polished faces and cut mouldings; with engraved patterns; with engraved subjects (as various rings, etc., nos. 23, 53, 133 on the right); a piece of an opaque white glass bowl, imitating fine limestone, and deeply engraved for inlaying; rich blue glass volutes for inlaying, probably in alabaster, like the blue glass and alabaster frieze of Tiryns; and hieroglyphs for inlaying in the walls, cut in glass.
60. The colours are very varied, and in sorting over hundreds of the drawn glass rods it seemed as if no two pots of glass had been quite alike; so that a few pieces of each batch might be found, but no exact match beyond those. There are purple, opaque violet, blue, green, yellow, opaque red, brown, black, and white. Most of these were both transparent and opaque; and the variety of blues and greens is indefinite.
61. Glazing was a highly developed art at this
period, and reached its greatest successes under
Akhenaten. Whole statues of glaze, and walls
blazing with glazed tiles and hieroglyphs, shewed
how the difficulties of size had been overcome.
62. Inlayed glaze was also used effectively on the
great capitals with gilding between, as shewn on the
restoration below. On the walls glazed tiles were
much used; all along the west side of the great hall
of columns fragments of green tiles with daisies and
thistles, were found scattered. Probably therefore
there were more than two hundred feet of this tile dado,
with inlayed white daisies and violet thistles. From
the number of pieces of tile with water pattern, lotus,
fishes, and birds, it seems that tiled floors also existed
in the palace.
63. Glazes were also much used on portable objects. In the palace we found many pieces of dishes in the form of half fish, half yellow melons, half green gourds, etc. These from their richness and position were most likely part of the royal table-service. Vases were decorated with inlayed patterns of different colours, and also with applied moulded figures of flowers, etc. A favourite and beautiful style was of incising and inlaying dark-blue patterns on light-blue grounds. In other cases pale green was inlayed in violet (18 above), or green in dark violet (28, 37 above).
64. But the most wide-spread and popular use of
glaze was for covering moulded figures, made for most
diverse uses. Finger-rings (on the right 161-240), decorations to stitch on dress (57, 59, 260, 436), inlayed
hieroglyphs (241-269), pendants (271 et seq.), serpent's
heads for cornices (322-327), flowers for inlaying
(430, 456-506), fruits for pendants, inlaying, and
ceiling reliefs (441-455), and geometrical pieces for
inlayed patterns (558-594). These plates (XIV-XX)
are drawn as if from the moulded objects; where the
objects have been found they are indicated by the
letters of the colours (v, violet; bl, blue; gn, green;
y, yellow; gy, grey; wt, white; bk, black); where
they are drawn only from the moulds they are marked
with M. In plates XIV, XV, where the numbers are
important historically, the number of examples of each
individual mould are given; e.g. of No. 50 there are
4 impressions of one mould, and one each of three
others, all in blue glaze; also 4 moulds of one engraving, 3 of another, and 1 of a third.
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