A Closer Look at Late Antique Trade of Glass Unguentaria in the Roman Province of Egypt
At the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting, Pamela Koulianos (North Carolina State University) presented her paper, “Beyond Ceramic Unguentaria: A Closer Look at Late Antique Trade of Glass Unguentaria in the Roman Province of Egypt.” Amidst the excitement of exhibitors, presentations, and networking with colleagues, Koulianos took the time to meet with the ASOR staff to read her paper for ASORtv. You can view her presentation and paper abstract below.
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Abstract from the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting Program Book
The Nabataean perfume industry began ca. the late first century BCE, flourished through the second century CE, then declined due to the effects of the mid-third century crisis. The ceramic containers of these unguents are called unguentaria. Nabataean piriform unguentaria were routinely exported far beyond their kingdom. However, the author suggests that perfume trade did not simply cease to exist after the third century. It is likely that glass unguentaria, in use contemporaneously with ceramic unguentaria, extend beyond the use of ceramic into later antiquity. Egypt’s role in late antiquity, the fourth through sixth centuries CE, was crucial to the continuity of trade between the Levant and the wider Mediterranean world. Egypt’s key industrial city, Alexandria, was the leading commercial center well before and beyond this period. Alexandria manufactured many value- added products from raw materials that were being imported from the east, including perfumed oils. Through an intensive study of Provincia Aegytus during the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods (fourth through sixth centuries CE), this paper will suggest that there was continuation and consolidation of the production and distribution of perfume. The perfume industry declined at Petra, yet the bottling of unguents must have continued elsewhere at such sites as Alexandria and shipped within a different container, that, glass.
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