Station: [5] Antique Ribbed Bowl

  • Glasmuseum Wertheim


As a result of their simple and fast production process Roman ribbed bowls that were used for drinking from, were considered an antique glass production success. Roman glassmakers needed no longer than two minutes to produce a ready-to-despatch model. The secret of their success lay in the use of a type of potter’s wheel upon which a thick, hot piece of molten glass was lowered onto a reusable mould. A tool was used to press in the ribs and the bowl was expanded at the same time. Afterwards of course, the bowl could be filed down a bit. If the contractor wanted curved ribs for example, the potter’s wheel was turned, but for straight ones it stood still. The edge of the bowl could also be smoothed and polished. Ribbed bowls were in fashion from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD.


Alongside the potter’s wheel, two other inventions generated an enormous boom in Roman glass art and created its high status: one was the invention of the glassmaker’s glassblowing pipe in the 1st century BC on the Syrian-Palestinian coast. This new glassblowing technique meant the molten glass could be blown into shape and simple „hollow glass forms,“ like bottles, vials and jugs, as well as flat glass, could be serially produced. Glass manufacturers suddenly sprang up all over the Roman provinces north of the Alps and nothing could hinder the transformation from luxury glass into everyday glass.


The second revolutionary development was the discovery of artificially colouring glass, using manganite. This made the production of a very pale and translucent glass possible that was ideal for Roman windowpanes and alchemists’ experiments.