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The Past

2,000 - 200 years ago
Roman glass

Glass was used extensively in the Roman era, and exported all over the known world. Indeed, examples are known from Britain in the west to Sweden in the north and Korea in the east. In the Emirates, both al-Dur and Mileiha have yielded numerous examples of Roman glasswork, much of it probably originating in the large glass factories of Syria. Smaller amounts of Roman glass have been found elsewhere in the Emirates as well, for example at Bidya. Undoubtedly the most common type of Roman glass vessel recovered in the UAE is the pillar-moulded bowl, a shallow bowl made in a variety of colours with pronounced ribs on the outside. Along with complete examples, hundreds of small fragments have been found at al-Dur. Small flasks, amphoriskoi, drinking cups, and other shapes, including moulded-blown almond-bossed beakers, have been recorded.

The fact that Roman glass was much finer than any ceramic vessel then available in the region easily accounts for its popularity. But once again, we should not jump to the conclusion that Romans visited the UAE just because their glass did. We know that Roman glass was exported from Syria, down the Euphrates to Mesopotamia, and thence to the East, just as we know that it was included in the cargoes of ships sailing from Roman Egypt, down the Red Sea, to India. Offshoots of that trade could easily have been responsible for bringing Roman glass to al-Dur and Mileiha in the first and second centuries AD.

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