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A small glass, which until now had hardly been given importance, has turned out to be the fragment of a bottle containing a hedonistic message, destined for the aristocracy 1,600 years ago.
The piece was located in the Roman villa of Veranes (Gijón), excavated since 1997 by Carmen Fernández Ochoa, Emeritus Professor of Archeology at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), and Fernando Gil Sendino, from the UAM Foundation.
Glass, intended for the owner of the villa, has just been dated and put in value thanks to the detailed analysis carried out by the professor of Archeology at the UAM, Javier Salido Domínguez, and by the archaeologist Belén Madariaga, members of the Veranes Archaeological Team.
The authors show that whoever engraved the bottle intended to send Mr. de Veranes "a hedonistic desire for delight and enjoyment of life." And this conclusion is the result of the message written on his body: "Drink and live many years, good man."
According to the work, published in the magazine Journal of Glass Studies, to date there had not been documented an inscription that reunited in a single recorded inscription the following three expressions of good wish: two in Latin (Mvltis Annis; Homo Bone) and a third in Greek (Pie Zeses), which are perfectly verified separately in similar vitreous vessels.
That allows them to think that they have found the message that one day was engraved on the bottle.
Good sample of the exceptionality of the piece, say the authors, it is “the scarcity of pieces of this type found in the territory of ancient Hispania.
In addition, laborious work techniques they turned these containers into unique and sometimes personalized objects, which distinguish them from other serial productions such as mold-blown containers, which makes them rare and exclusive objects only accessible to an economic and social elite ”.
Bottle without impurities
The glass comes from a stratigraphic unit that contains materials dated to the 5th century AD. C. (several copies of late Hispanic terra sigillata and a coin dated to AD 383).
According to Javier Salido Domínguez, it is a colorless glass fragment, 4 cm high by 3 cm wide and with a wall thickness of 0.33 to 0.125 cm, without impurities, but with the presence of some small bubbles. This analysis has been possible thanks to the SECYR (Service for the Conservation, Restoration and Scientific Studies of Archaeological Heritage) of the UAM.
«It corresponds to a piece blown in the open air and the quality that distinguishes it is precisely the engraved inscription that runs horizontally on its surface. Both the profile of the fragment, as well as the arrangement of the inscription and the lines that delimit it, lead us to think that it would correspond to the upper part of a bottle with a globular body ”, adds the professor at the UAM.
These pieces they were manufactured by blowing with cane in the air to define the body and through the neck and edge shaping, while the glass was still malleable.
On the other hand, the origin of the glass, found inside the loggia open to the south, allows us to think about a domestic use, perhaps as table service or for the preservation of cosmetic products, as has been documented in similar pieces.
However, its exceptionality, the richness of its engraving and the high value of its production tilts the balance towards the conviction that it is a present made to the owner of the Roman villa or estate.
Salido Domínguez, Javier & Madariaga, Belén (2018): «Fragment of a bottle with an inscription from the Roman town of Veranes (Asturias, Spain)«, Journal of Glass Studies 60, 25-39.
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