Historians agree that man-made glass was first discovered approximately 6,000 years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean coast, now modern day Syria. Trading merchants resting in the region placed their cooking pots on blocks of nitrate by the fire. The nitrate melted and mixed with the sand creating a liquid. As the liquid cooled it became translucent and durable. This is the first noted record of the creation of man-made glass.
Towards the end of the first century BC, the technique of glassblowing along the eastern Mediterranean coast revolutionized glass production. As a result, glass became readily available to the common people for the first time.
Syrian ceramics were well-known due to the innovative decorative skills of the potters. Syrian glass decorated with enamel were taken to Europe by travellers to present to the churches. This art of glass-making was subsequently copied with great success at Murano (Venice) although the brilliant metalwork from Damascus continued to find its way across the Mediterranean. Luxurious household wares used by upper classes in the Muslim world were also purchased on the oriental markets.
This bottle, in the Aga Khan Museum’s collection, is dated 12th century, Iran. It contains embellishments resembling those applied on 7th-8th century Syrian flasks.
Aga Khan Museum Online Gallery
Almut von Gladib, Islam: Art and Architecture, Edited by Markus Hattstein and Peter Delius. Konemann. 2000
Research by Nimira Dewji
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