Published: May 15, 2018 By

Catalogue Entry Photograph of a clear glass vessel with a squat globular body and a tall, narrow neck that flares toward the top to a rounded mouth, from the side against a neutral gray background.

From the Catalogue of Ancient Glass in the University of Colorado Museum

Gift of H. Medill Sarkisian and Justine Sarkisian Rodriguez (1979)
Transferred to CU Art Museum (2008)
Height: 14.5 cm
Diameter (max.): 5.3 cm
Roman, 2nd century C.E.

Classification: Isings Form 82A(1); Harden Fabric 9

Description: Flat rim folded over unevenly. Tall, cylindrical neck flares outward at both ends. Smooth transition to squat globular body. Original color obscured by white debris, probably pale green. Body shattered and repaired by gluing or cementing; hence body is solid and completely filled in. Blown.

Comment: Though this form is classified as Isings Form 82A(1), it differs in a number of ways: there is no constriction at the base of the neck, the base is rounded rather than flat (though the vessel can still stand on its own), and the neck tapers out at both ends. However, these differences may not altogether be significant. The unevenness of the rim suggests mass production. Close parallels are Hayes 1975, nos. 227 (from Palestine), 253 and 498 (both from Cyprus), and 573; and Whitehouse 1997, nos. 251 and 270.


This unguentarium appears to be made of white glass, but the yellowish-white material that you see is debris. This could be the remains of whatever material was contained within or a form of weathering. The original color of the glass was actually pale green. Green-tinted glass was manufactured in ancient Rome by adding a small amount of natural metals to the glass ingredients. A one- to three-percent addition of iron creates green glass, mixed in with sand and nitrate in an extremely hot kiln. It is uncertain how much the ancient glassmakers could control the tint of the glass, but they knew which metals caused which colors (1).

This particular unguentarium is different from the others in the CU Art Museum collection because of its elongated neck and squat body. An unguentarium was used to hold scented oil, perfume, or body lotion for both men and women. These cosmetics were applied as soon as one awoke, then again after bathing during the day at the local bathhouse. The most popular scents were saffron, marjoram, and roses, according to Pliny the Elder, a 1st century C.E. Roman author (Natural History XIII.2). Inscriptions from ancient towns such as Pozzuoli indicate that the perfume-makers were usually in the same district as the glassworkers, suggesting that craftworkers realized the efficiency of being near a business they were closely connected to (2).


  1. Donald B. Harden, Roman Glass from Karanis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1936): 6-9.
  2. Stuart J. Fleming, Roman Glass: Reflections of Everyday Life (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1997): 28-31.


  • Hayes, J. W. Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto: 1975.
  • Whitehouse, D. Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, v. 1. Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass, 1997.