Glass Fragment

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Glass fragment 9th–10th centuries, Egypt Freeblown and cut colorless glass Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 1970.3.933

Glass fragment

This clear glass fragment is adorned with patterns carved in relief. The ornamentation is highly delicate given the thinness of the vessel's walls and the fragility of its medium. The chiseling technique used to relief-cut this glass resembles the way rock crystal is worked. Rock crystal, or transparent quartz, was considered by medieval Muslim thinkers to be one of the clearest substances on earth, just after air and water. In fact, rock crystal was often analogized to light and petrified water, both of which are believed to carry life-endowing properties. Thus, this remarkably clear glass, which is carved in a manner similar to rock crystal, was perhaps used as a beaker or, more metaphorically, a fountain of life.

Bibliography: Carboni and Whitehouse 2001, 155–161, 172–175, figs. 79–81; Carboni 2001, 84–85, cat. no. 19; Jenkins, 1986, 19; 1983, 27, fig. 26; Contadini 1999, 319–323; Oliver 1961; Stern 1997; Kröger 2007; Shalem 1994; Porter 2009; Whitehouse 1993, 54–55; Scanlon and Pinder-Wilson 2001, 99–104; and Pinder-Wilson and Scanlon 1973, 25–26, cat. no. 19, figs. 30–32.

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