Glass Glass A chunk of glass found in one of the kilns. (Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)

Is this where the glassworks industry began?

Discovery of 1,600-year-old kilns leads experts to believe Israel was a major glass producer.

The discovery of just a few kilns has opened up a whole new world of understanding about how and where antiquity got its glass.

The kilns, believed to be 1,600 years old (dating to the Late Roman period), were recently found in Israel and indicate that the country was one of the foremost – if not the foremost – centers for glass production at a time that the use of glass spread rapidly across the known world.

GlassExperts believe the discovery shows Israel to have played an important role in glass production during antiquity. (Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)

"This is a very important discovery with implications regarding the history of the glass industry both in Israel and in the entire ancient world," said Yael Gorin-Rosen, head curator of the Israel Antiquities Authority Glass Department. "Chemical analyses conducted on glass vessels from this period, which were discovered until now at sites in Europe and in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean basin, have shown that the source of the glass is from our region. Now, for the first time, the kilns have been found where the raw material was manufactured that was used to produce this glassware."

The site of the kilns was actually discovered by chance last summer by archaeologist Abdel Al-Salam Sa‘id, an inspector with the Israel Antiquities Authority, who was overseeing infrastructure work on a new railroad line being built.

GlassGlass experts around the world rushed to Israel at the news of the discovery. (Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)

The kilns Al-Salam Sa‘id uncovered consisted of two compartments: a firebox and a melting chamber. The Israel Antiquities Authority explained that they were used in a process that involved heating the glass for a week or two until enormous chunks of raw glass were produced, some of which weighed in excess of 10 tons. At the end of this process the large glass chunks were broken into smaller pieces and sold to workshops, where they were melted again in order to produce glassware.

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