Mystery of Chedworth’s 1,800-year-old Roman glass shard solved

Mystery of Chedworth's 1,800-year-old Roman glass shard solved

Mystery of Chedworth’s 1,800-year-old Roman glass shard solved

After two years of analyses by experts globally, an extremely rare piece of glass was identified as a 1,800-year-old fish bottle.

The little piece of patterned green glass was discovered in the summer of 2017 at Chedworth Roman Villa in Gloucestershire.

The fragment from the Roman fish bottle, the only one of its type ever discovered in Britain.

Chedworth, a National Trust property, is considered one of Britain’s largest Roman villas, but it was nothing that was ever found in Britain.

But now, glass experts have determined that it was located in what is now Ukraine thousands of kilometres away across the Black Sea and was possibly used to hold exotic perfume.

For the bottle to travel that far, it sheds new light on the wealth and power of the people who occupied Chedworth, regarded as one of the grandest villas in the UK.

Nancy Grace, the National Trust archaeologist who led the work to investigate the find, said it had puzzled lots of people.

‘People have been enchanted by it, but it has also been a long and difficult journey,’ she said. 

‘To have found that it is the only one of its type so far discovered in Roman Britain adds to our knowledge of the importance of Chedworth Roman Villa.’ 

The fragment above an artist’s impression of how the fish bottle would have looked.

The team say that it ‘underlines that the occupants were in touch with the furthest regions of the Roman Empire and wanted to show off that influence.’

The late professor Jennifer Price, a leading expert in glass, examined it first and then sought advice from other glass experts around the world. 

Professor Price eventually found it matched a fish-shaped bottle in the collection of the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.

By comparing the two examples, she concluded the Chedworth piece came from near the ‘tail’ of the fish bottle. 

The only other example of such a fish-shaped Roman bottle comes from a 2nd century burial in Crimea. 

It was made with an unusual technique, with the decoration laid on top of the blue-green surface to create scales in loops of white and yellow, and it is likely the fish’s open mouth formed the opening of the small flask.

Peter Moore,  an archaeologist and Masters student at the University of York who found the glass said:  ‘When it appeared, the first wipe of the surface showed the colour and it quickly became apparent it was something special. 

‘Excavating anything at Chedworth and knowing that you are the first person to gaze upon it for at least 1,800 years is a feeling that never tires, the memory of recovering this piece of glass certainly will not.

Archaelogist Peter Moore where he found the piece.

‘Recovering such a unique find is incredibly humbling, it will no doubt prove a talking point for years to come. I am delighted that it will be displayed at the villa, enabling visitors and future generations to marvel at its beauty.’

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