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Title: An investigation into technological change and organisational developments in glass production between the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (7th-12th centuries) focussing on evidence from Israel
Author: Phelps, M. R. O.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7224 1866
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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Roman-Byzantine Palestine was a major producer of glass, and while Arab Conquest of the mid-7th century had no initial effect on glass production, around the 9th-10th century a critical technological change occurred with a shift to plant ash flux. This thesis answers several unresolved questions regarding the chronology, reasons for change and origins of the technology. Around 300 glass samples taken from 7th-13th century vessels were analysed by LA-ICP-MS. Vessels were well-contextualised of mainly diagnostic types and sourced from 19 excavated consumption sites across Israel. Four natron and four plant ash groups were identified. Vessel chronology suggested a decline in Palestinian production during the 8th century as evidenced by the appearance of low-soda recipes produced at Bet Eli’ezer, the import of Egypt II glass, and an influx of plant ash glass. Palestinian glass production appears to discontinue by the 9th century, followed by Egyptian production 50-100 years later. Investigation of the potential reasons for the shift to plant ash glass dismissed political instability and climatic change. Instead economic factors were highlighted, such as long-term pressures on natron supply due to competition from other industries, and rising costs due to state control of extraction and the imposition of tariffs during the 9th century. It was demonstrated that rising costs made natron no longer economically viable for glassmaking. Investigations into the origins of plant ash glass technologies suggested no clear link to Sasanian glassmaking practices, concluding that the technology was adopted from already known local practices. A centralised production model continued after the technological change, with raw glass being exported from Tyre to Palestine and elsewhere. Some vessels were also traded, such as wheel-cut bottles of Mesopotamia origin. Smaller compositional types hinted at the emergence of a non-centralised production model in Syria during the Abbasid period, but this was not conclusive.
Supervisor: Freestone, I. C. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available