Excavations in the north of Israel have unearthed the remains of ancient glassworks dated to at least 1,600 years ago. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), archaeologists excavating the Biblical Jezreel Valley have uncovered the country’s earliest-known glass kilns. Israel during the Late Roman period was renowned for manufacturing large quantities of raw glass.
The IAA has now said the new discovery indicates Israel “was one of the foremost centres” for glass production in the ancient world.
The group wrote on Facebook: “During the Early Roman period, the use of glass greatly expanded due to its characteristics: its transparency, beauty, the delicacy of the vessels, and the speed with which they could be produced by blowing – an inexpensive technique that lowered production costs.
“Glass was used in nearly every household from the Roman period onward, and it was also utilized in the construction of public buildings in the form of windows, mosaics, and lighting fixtures.
“Consequently, large quantities of raw glass were required, which were prepared on an industrial scale in specialized centres.”
The glassworks found in the Jezreel Valley, the IAA added, are an example of these ancient production centres.
According to the excavation director, Abdel Al-Salam Sa‘id, the glass kilns were comprised of two compartments.
One compartment was fitted with a firebox for kindlings, and the second was a melting chamber where beach sand and salt were melted down into glass.
Temperatures within these kilns would have reached a scorching 1,200C.
He said: “This is a very important discovery with implications regarding the history of the glass industry both in Israel and in the entire ancient world.
“From historical sources dating to the Roman period, we know that the ‘Akko valley was renowned for its excellent quality sand, which was highly suitable for the manufacture of glass.
“Chemical analyses conducted on glass vessels from this period discovered in sites in Europe and shipwrecks in the Mediterranean basin have shown that our region was the source of the glass.”
The Jezreel Valley features prominently in the Bible and, according to scripture, was the site of Queen Jezebel orchestrating the death of the winemaker Naboth.
The Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible also describes the Jezreel Valley as the site of a great battle between the Israelites, the Amalekites, and the “Children of the East”.
The scripture reads: “Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.
“Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.
“He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.”