Station: [4] A - Aryballos

  • Glasmuseum Wertheim


The glass „Aryballos“ is 2500 years old and is one of the oldest exhibits in the Wertheim Museum of Glass. „Aryballos“ is Greek and denotes a spherically shaped oil bottle made of clay. The „Aryballos“ was the preferred oil container of Greek athletes. They would attach it to their wrists with a band and carry it with them on their way to wrestling training. After taking part in the sport they would use the oil to cleanse their bodies by rubbing it into their skin so that it absorbed the dirt. They would then remove both oil and dirt with a scraper known as a „Strigilis“.


„Ariballoi“ made of glass were luxury items during antiquity, not only because of their complex production process, but also because glass was very precious, and they were therefore only used for rare oils and ointments. Earthenware contains quartz and it was earthenware makers who purely by chance, discovered the first fully melted glass object. From 5 BC onwards these craftspeople processed quartz sand, soda and limestone to create glass-like objects, known as Egyptian faience. Antique glass production was confined to a minority of production centres affiliated to the royal court. The raw glass produced there was sold all over the world in coloured chunks, shards and bars and was then worked into inserts, pearls and amulets. Glass was considered a valuable alternative to gemstones that were both expensive and difficult to obtain.


The first glass receptacles were made in around 1500 BC. They were made from a fire-resistant mixture of clay, sand and organic material and the mould had to be tediously scratched out by hand. This meant that each and every receptacle was made from a new mould. Despite this, the containers were actively produced from the mid 6th century BC in the east Mediterranean area. And this „Aryballos“, also dates back to this time.