Dated 1250BC, world's oldest glass factory found in Nile delta

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The Independent Online

What may be one of the earliest glass-making sites in ancient Egypt has been uncovered in the eastern Nile Delta. Evidence at Qantir-Piramesses indicates that glass was made there out of raw materials as early as 1250 BC, researchers from England and Germany report in the journal Science.

What may be one of the earliest glass-making sites in ancient Egypt has been uncovered in the eastern Nile Delta. Evidence at Qantir-Piramesses indicates that glass was made there out of raw materials as early as 1250 BC, researchers from England and Germany report in the journal Science.

The reworking of already-made glass into finished goods has been documented at ancient sites in the Middle East and Egypt, but this report adds evidence for primary glass production at this spot.

Thilo Rehren, of University College London, and Edgar B Pusch, of Pelizaeus museum in Hildesheim, Germany, found many crucibles with remains of glass inside.

It was made using finely crushed quartz powder melted with other materials inside the ceramic crucibles, which then were broken to get the glass out, they said.

The glass ingots "would then have been transported to other, artistic workshops where they were re-melted and worked into objects," they said.

Much of the glass produced at Qantir-Piramesses was red, using copper in a complex process. Some of it was blue or colourless.

A large shipment of glass ingots has been found in an ancient shipwreck off Turkey. The wreck predates the materials found at Qantir-Piramesses, but the ingots are similar in size and shape to the crucibles found at the Egyptian site.

Fragments of similar crucibles have also been found in Egypt at el-Amarna and Lisht, the researchers noted.

Caroline M Jackson, of the University of Sheffield, called their report "highly significant". Ms Jackson, who was not part of the research team, said: "Rehren and Pusch convincingly show that the Egyptians were making their own glass in large, specialised facilities."

In a commentary accompanying their report, she says their analysis reinforces the role of glass in Egypt "as an elite material that was exported from Egypt to the Mediterranean world".

The research was funded by the German Research Council and the British Academy.

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