Roman Cast Glass ‘Cotton Reel’ Unguentarium


An unguentarium in the shape of cotton reel, with a wide everted flat rim, and a flat standing base. The body is covered with rich iridescence, the encrustations and colour of the glass creating a marble-like effect.

Date: Circa 2nd - 3rd Century AD
Condition: Fine condition.


SKU: AS-593 Category: Tag:

The shape of this unguentarium is characteristic of Roman Egypt: the thick walls creating a durable container with a very small capacity.

Unguentaria were amongst the most common objects of Roman blown glass: produced in large numbers, they were items of every day use for keeping expensive unguents and cosmetic oils. By the 1st century AD, the technique of glass-blowing had revolutionised the art of glass-making, allowing for the production of small medicine, incense, and perfume containers in new forms. The small body and mouth allowed the user carefully to pour and control the amount of liquid dispensed, and glass was the material of choice for storing the oils because it was not porous. These small glass (or ceramic) bottles are found frequently at Hellenistic and Roman sites, especially in cemeteries, and the perfumes which filled them would have been gathered from all corners of the expansive Roman Empire.

The iridescence on ancient Roman glass was unintentional, and was caused by weathering on its surface. The extent to which a glass object weathers depends mainly on the burial conditions; however, the humidity, heat, and type of soil in which the glass was buried also all affect its preservation.

To find out more about Roman glass please see our relevant blog post: Collecting Roman Glass.

Weight 45.2 g
Dimensions H 6.7 cm



Reference: Similar item: Ancient Glass at the Newark Museum, item 50.

You may also like…