Glass art

Michael Marshall: Assessing Small Finds From Roman London Part 2

So the many, many boxes of nails, thank god, are now a distant memory. At the assessment stage we only do a fairly coarse quantification in order to determine the potential of the material for further work. This sometimes just involves weighing and counting the fragments but when preservation is good enough some other data can be collected such as number of complete nails from each context (divided into broad size categories), minimum number of nails and comments on particularly distinctive styles or features. The point of this isn’t to write a definitive account of the use of nails on the site but to assess their potential for further analysis, decide what role they will play in the final publication and how they can help us to address research questions.

Unfortunately, it’s probably not worth doing much more work on the Southwark nails as they are in terrible condition. Most are completely encrusted or incomplete and the assemblage is quite small with a maximum of c. 15 fragments from any given context making any inferences of limited value.

Much more exciting this afternoon is the Roman glass and glass working waste which will definitely feature in the final publication. As mentioned briefly in my previous post, this seems to be the first Roman glass-working evidence from this side of the river. The types of waste include ‘moils’ (glass from the end of the blowing iron left behind when you crack the vessel off) as well as a variety of melted, fused and runny lumps.  Threads, pulls and trails etc derive from more detailed manipulation of glass during decoration or the addition of handles etc.

Glass working waste from Basinghall, London: Threads and Nails( (c) Andy Chopping, MOLA)

The assemblage is relatively small so far with only about 25 moils worth of fragments accounted for, each of which equates to a vessel manufactured onsite. This estimate is based on EME (estimated moil equivalent) a technique lifted from pottery studies (EVEs) which is calculated by measuring the proportion of the moil diameter present in each fragment. Of course many more vessels could have been made and the moils recycled or not recovered. Vessels were being made from both naturally coloured blue-green glass and amber coloured glass.

Glass working waste from Basinghall, London: Moils ( (c) Andy Chopping, MOLA)

The general range of waste types is not dissimilar to those found at the much larger glass-working dumps at Guildhall Yard and Basinghall Street across the river in Londinium (see pictures below) and, like those dumps, the waste was found alongside lots of broken vessel and window glass intended for recycling. Raw Roman glass was brought all the way from the Mediterranean so recycling this ‘cullet’ made good economic sense. Identifiable fragments of bottles, beakers, jugs and jars from amongst the smashed up vessels suggest a probable date in the early to mid 2nd century AD for the glass working.

If glass working interests you check out this website http://www.romanglassmakers.co.uk/linksrom.htm and a great little book called Glass workers of Roman London by John Shepherd and my colleague Angela Wardle, which provides an interim popular account of their work on the Basinghall assemblage and the techniques of glass making.  Their work on the final monograph is nearing completion, but luckily the new evidence from Southwark should still just about make it into the gazetteer of glass-working sites included in the text, and contribute to their discussion of the organisation of the industry.

That’s enough from me. I don’t have time to tell you about the lamps, finger rings, combs, figurines, crucibles, hairpins, querns, toilet instruments, tools or the large and interesting assemblage of glass vessels I have already recorded from the site. Unfortunately, I can’t even tell you about the cosmetic mortar or the blue blobbed glass beaker, probably an import from the Rhineland, which I recorded yesterday. The whole point of the assessment stage is so we can get our head around what we’ve got, and how best to study and publish it, so if you want to know more you’ll need to hang about. This is certainly shaping up to be an interesting site and I’ve already spent too long waffling here and not enough time doing my glass data entry.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back and finish this context before the end of the day, so I can get to the pub on time.

 

Day of Archaeology – LAARC Lottery Part 3 (Registered Finds)

Here are the results from our registered finds shelf lottery

Shelf seven (suggested by Pat Hadley – thanks Pat) of our Registered finds section of the Archive is the start of a sequence of finds that were excavated before professional archaeology became existed inLondon, during the very early 1970s. At this time theMuseumofLondon’s forbearer – the Guildhall Museum– was undertaking excavations across the city. This object – a classic Roman oil lamp – was excavated on Gracechurch street in 1969.

Roman Lamp from GM69 site

Roman Lamp from GM69 site – and shelf number 7

This Roman lamp is known as a picture lamp, as the central ‘discus’ is decorated. It may be a Loeschecke (1919) Type IV, although difficult to tell as types are usually distinguished by the nozzle, which in this case is broken. It probably dates to the C1st AD and in particular the Boudican revolt as it was discovered in association with a major burnt strata with other C1st pottery.

A very similar lamp has also been discovered on a recent Archive volunteer project – VIP9 – although not in such a good state of preservation! Closer comparison may reveal if it was made from the same two-piece mould, as these objects were mass produced.

Shelf 342 (tweeted by our very own Adam Corsini while on holiday in Sardinia) of our Registered finds stores material from the 1980s, a point in time when archaeology withinLondonhad become highly professionalised – having a major impact on how we eventually archive material and records from excavation.

Our second lucky winner(s) are  fragmentary pieces of medieval window glass. Excavated on the site of the Royal Mint in 1986, this glass may have formed part of the medieval Abbey or Chapter House. By the C16th window glass such as this would have been found more commonly in secular buildings as opposed to religious buildings. Although extremely aesthetic, the array of colours this glass has produced are not intentional – this is actually the glass decomposing, or delaminating, as a result of being buried in the ground for hundreds of years.

Fragments of medieval stained glass from MIN86

Fragments of medieval stained glass from MIN86, and shelf 342

Next it’s our Metal artefacts – these objects are stored separately. A dehumidified store, sealed boxes and silica gel help us maintain these objects to a high degree of preservation as they’d slowly degrade in normal room conditions. Tweet using #dayofarch or #LAARC, or message us below, a number between 1 and 628 to discover, completely at random, what that shelf holds…