Unguentaria have been repeatedly found at Roman and Hellenistic sites, the vessel was used to hold liquids and oils such as perfume and keep them fresh. Perfume was very popular in Rome; it was produced in many different forms including as a solid, powder or liquid. It was so well used that Cicero declared that ‘the right scent for a woman is none at all’, suggesting an excessiveness. The Roman people were able to use exotic scents which had been brought over with expanding trade to the East and which would display their social status. Different scents would also have been used for different social occasions. Perfumes would be stored in vessels such as this unguentarium because its long, elongated neck would give control to the flow of the perfume when poured.
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.