Everyone knows that the ancient Egyptians didn’t have the internet and most know that during the renaissance there were no mobile phones. We are all well aware that modern innovations happened relatively recently. However, when looking back at history it is difficult to imagine a world without some of the items that we use and take for granted today. Take glass as an example. Most of us never even think to imagine a world without glass. Yet there was a time when glass was invented and it changed the world. Let’s take a closer look at the history of glass.
The first glass appeared all the way back in the Stone age. Artifacts have been found that show people from the stone-age making weapons and decorative objects from glass. At that time people didn’t have the skill to create glass instead they were finding it in the soil close to volcanoes. This volcanic black glass is called obsidian and it occurs naturally as a result of volcanic eruptions.
It was not until 3000 BC when civilizations started to understand how to manufacture their own glass and the trade of glass blowing was born. Most people believe that the original invention of glass came from ancient Egypt. Eastern Mesopotamia was also an innovative hub that invented glass at roughly the same time. Mesopotamia corresponds with modern-day Iraq. Greece, China, and Israel have all shown evidence that dates back and appears to suggest that they were early hubs of glass production as well.
Recently a kiln was discovered dating back 1,600 years in Israel. Based on the time the pieces were dated back to and the size of the kiln experts are now sure that this place would have supplied much of the Roman Empire with glass and was one of the first-ever major industrial kilns. The team found some corresponding documents that highlighted how suitable the area was for glass production due to the quality of sand in the location. Since the discovery expert teams have done analysis on many ancient pieces of glass and found that many pieces dotted across Europe were manufactured in this factory.
When the glass was first created it was a luxury good and only the wealthiest people were able to afford it. However, by the Roman period, it was starting to be produced at a large and cost-effective scale and was now appearing in every home. From that point until today it was used for windows, mosaics, light fixtures, and more. The recent kiln discovered appears to pinpoint the time that glass moved from niche luxury goods to large supply industrial goods.
Experts say that at this time there were two types of glass in circulation. The Judean glass was a light green color while the Egyptian glass was closer to blue. The Judean glass was cheaper and so was used widely by many people.
The glass industry continued to flourish and by the end of the 13th century, it was a massive industry in Europe. It was at this time that “cristallo” or colorless glass was invented by the Venetians on the island of Murano. While the Venetians tried to keep their methods a secret it soon became clear (Excuse the pun) how they were doing it across Europe and we now have widespread use of transparent glass as a result. If it wasn’t for the Venetians and their inability to keep secrets your windows might be green today.
The discovery of the ancient kiln is another piece of the puzzle of how the glass industry transformed from its inception to the modern-day. While we often look at the history of modern inventions it is sometimes the classic pieces that are far more interesting.