Study towards the identification and characterisation of primary Roman glass production centres.
The provenance determination of ancient natron glass remains one of the most challenging problems in the field of archaeometry. During the production of natron glass, the raw materials are completely transformed and most of their characteristics are lost, leaving only bulk chemical data as a potential discriminating feature. More and more elemental and isotopic data for archaeological glass is being published, but hardly any data for suitable raw materials is available for comparison. In this project, we will provide such a characterisation of the most important sand deposits which may have been used for Roman glass production. After identification, mapping and complete mineralogical and geochemical (major, minor and trace elements and Sr-Nd isotopes) characterisation of the possible sources of suitable glassmaking sand raw materials, a probabilistic model for the provenance determination of ancient natron glass will be constructed. With such a model it will become possible to determine the most likely primary origin of a glass artefact based on its geochemical characteristics. Subsequently, it will become possible to identify different active primary glass producers, to make an estimation of their market share in the different parts of the Roman Empire and how it changed throughout history. This will provide valuable information about ancient glass distribution, trade routes and the organisation of the Roman economy.