Skip to main content

The Lycurgus Cup — A Roman nanotechnology

References

  1. 1

    Harden D.B. and Toynbee J.M.C. (1959), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup’,Archaeologia, Vol.97, pp. 179–212 (the article includes in the appendix a catalogue of extant or lost but well authenticated cage cups and fragments known at that time)

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Harden D.B., Hellenkemper H., Painter K. and Whitehouse D. (1987)Glass of the Caesars, Olivetti, Milan, pp. 245–249 (catalogue entry 139)

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Harden D.B., Hellenkemper H., Painter K. and Whitehouse D. (1987)Glass of the Caesars, Olivetti, Milan, pp. 245–249 (catalogue entry 139)

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Harden D.B. and Toynbee J.M.C. (1959), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup’,Archaeologia, Vol.97, pp. 179–212

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Harden D.B. and Toynbee J.M.C. (1959), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup’,Archaeologia, Vol.97, pp. 179–212

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Harden D.B., Hellenkemper H., Painter K. and Whitehouse D. (1987)Glass of the Caesars, Olivetti, Milan, pp. 245–249 (catalogue entry 139)

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Harden D.B. and Toynbee J.M.C. (1959), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup’,Archaeologia, Vol.97, p. 180

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    British Museum Research Laboratory File 1144, letter dated 5.2.59 to Dr Mackey, Department of Physics, Birkbeck College, London

  9. 9

    Harden D.B. and Toynbee J.M.C. (1959), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup’,Archaeologia, Vol.97, pp. 179–212

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Harden D.B., Hellenkemper H., Painter K. and Whitehouse D. (1987)Glass of the Caesars, Olivetti, Milan, pp. 245–249 (catalogue entry 139)

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    British Museum Research Laboratory File 1144, letter dated 11.6.59

  12. 12

    British Museum Research Laboratory File 1144, letter dated 9.6.59 from B.S. Cooper at GEC

  13. 13

    SiO2 73.5%; Na2O 13.0; K2O 0.9; CaO 6.0; MgO 2.0; Al2O3 2.9; B2O3 0.1; MnO 0.5 (last 1% suggested to include traces of Fe, Ti, Ag, Au, Sb, Pb, Sn, Ba, Sr)

  14. 14

    Chirnside R.C. and Proffitt P.M.C. (1963), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup: an analytical investigation’,J. Glass Studies, 5, p. 18

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Chirnside R.C. (1965), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup: An analytical investigation’,Proc 7th Internat. Cong. Glass, comptes rendus2. Paper 222, pp. 1–6; manganese is now known to be a common constituent of Roman glass and appears to have been used as an oxidising agent/decolourant

  16. 16

    Chirnside R.C. (1965), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup: An analytical investigation’,Proc 7th Internat Cong. Glass, comptes rendus2. Paper 222, pp. 1–6

  17. 17

    British Museum Research Laboratory File 1144, letter dated 20.11.62

  18. 18

    Brill R.H. (dy1965) ‘The chemistry of the Lycurgus Cup’,Proc 7th Internat. Cong. Glass, comptes rendus2. Paper 223, pp. 1–13.

  19. 19

    Chirnside R.C. (1965) ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup: An analytical investigation’,Proc 7th Internat. Cong. Glass, comptes rendus2. Paper 222, pp. 1–6

  20. 20

    Brill R.H. (1965) ‘The chemistry of the Lycurgus Cup’,Proc 7th Internat. Cong. Glass, comptes rendus {vn2}. Paper 223, pp. 1–13.

  21. 21

    Barber D.J. and Freestone I.C. (1990) ‘An investigation of the origin of the colour of the Lycurgus Cup by analytical transmission electron microscopy’,Archaeometry 32, pp. 33–45

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Barber D.J. and Freestone I.C. (1990) ‘An investigation of the origin of the colour of the Lycurgus Cup by analytical transmission electron microscopy’,Archaeometry 32, pp. 33–45

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Wagner F.E., Haslbeck S., Stievano L., Calogero S., Pankhurst Q.A. and Martinek K.-P. (2000) ‘Before striking gold in gold-ruby glass’,Nature 407, pp. 691–692

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Kaminskaya N.L. (1980) ‘Initiating the finishing process for gold-containing glasses’,Glass and Ceramics 37, pp. 402–405

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Harden D.B. and Toynbee J.M.C. (1959), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup’,Archaeologia, Vol. 97, pp. 179–212

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Fremersdorf F. (1930), ‘Die Herstellung der Diatreta’,Schumacher Festschrift, Mainz, pp. 295 ff.

  27. 27

    Scott G. (1993) ‘Reconstructing and reproducing the Hohensulzen cage cup’,J Glass Studies 35, pp. 106–118

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Scott G. (1995) ‘A study of the Lycurgus Cup’,J Glass Studies 37, pp. 51–64

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Lierke R. (1995) ‘One more time — the making of the diatreta cups’,Glastech. Ber. Glass Sci Technol 68, pp. 195–204

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Lierke R. (1995) ‘Vasa Diatreta. Teil II: Die Herstellung der romischen Glasnetzbecher’,Antike Welt 26 (4) pp. 251–269

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Lierke R. (1999)Antike Glastopferei: Ein vergessenes Kapitel der Glasgeschichte Mainz

  32. 32

    Sax,M., Meeks,N.D. and Collon,D. (2000), ‘The Introduction of the Lapidary Engraving Wheel in Mesopotamia’,Antiquity 74, pp. 380–387

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Sax,M., Meeks,N.D. and Collon,D. (2000),‘The Introduction of the Lapidary Engraving Wheel in Mesopotamia’,Antiquity 74, pp. 380–387

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Healy J.F. (1981) ‘Pliny the Elder and Ancient Mineralogy’,Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 6, pp. 166–180

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Harden D.B. and Toynbee J.M.C. (1959), ‘The Rothschild Lycurgus Cup’,Archaeologia, Vol. 97, pp. 179–212

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Stern, E.M. (1999) ‘Roman glassblowing in a cultural context’,American Journal of Archaeology 103, pp. 441–484

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37

    Price J. (2005) ‘Glassworking and glassworkers in cities and towns’, in A. MacMahon and J. Price (eds)Roman Working Lives and Urban Living: pp. 167–191. Oxford: Oxbow

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    Brill R.H. (1968) ‘The scientific investigation of ancient glasses’,Proc 8th Internat. Cong. Glass, Sheffield, pp. 47–68

  39. 39

    Scott G. (1993) ‘Reconstructing and reproducing the Hohensulzen cage cup’,J Glass Studies 35, pp. 106–118

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40

    Scott G. (1995) ‘A study of the Lycurgus Cup’,J Glass Studies 37, pp. 51–64

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41

    Welzel J. (1998) ‘Die Rekonstruktion eines Diatretglases nach einem Scherbenfund’,J Glass Studies 40, pp. 127–139

    Google Scholar 

  42. 42

    Welzel J. (1999) ‘Das Diatretglas aus Szekszard in Ungarn’,J Glass Studies 41, pp. 153–165

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43

    Whitehouse D. (1989), ‘Roman Dichroic Glass: Two Contemporary Descriptions?’,J Glass Studies, 31, pp. 119–121

    Google Scholar 

  44. 44

    Badger A.E., Weyl W. and Rudow H. (1939) ‘The effect of heat treatment on colour of gold ruby glass’,The Glass Industry November 1939, pp. 407–414

  45. 45

    Analyses of gold and silver contents of five dichroic glasses are provided by Brill R.H. (1968) ‘The scientific investigation of ancient glasses’,Proc 8th Internat. Cong. Glass, Sheffield, pp. 47–68

  46. 46

    Freestone I.C., Stapleton C.P. and Rigby V (2003) ‘The production of red glass and enamel in the Later Iron Age, Roman and Byzantine periods’, in Entwistle C. (ed.)Through a glass brightly — studies in Byzantine and Medieval Art and Archaeology presented to David Buckton}. Oxbow pp. 142–154

  47. 47

    Hunt L.B. (1976) ‘The true story of Purple of Cassius’,Gold Bull. 9, pp. 134–139

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

Ian Freestone graduated in geology from the University of Reading and completed MSc and PhD degrees in geochemistry at the University of Leeds. Following post-doctoral work on silicate phase equilibria at the University of Manchester, he joined the British Museum in 1979, where he worked on the composition and production technology of inorganic artefacts from all periods and cultures. A recipient of the American Archaeological Institute's Pomerance Medal for scientific contributions to archaeology, he is President of the Association for the History of Glass. He joined Cardiff University as a professorial fellow in 2004, and is currently Head of Archaeology and Conservation. Address: Cardiff School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK. Email: freestonei@cardiff.ac.uk

Nigel Meeks graduated in Metallurgy and Materials Science at the University of London, and further trained in silversmithing. At the British Museum he has researched into a wide range of ancient materials, technological processes and manufacturing techniques. Particular research interests and publications include the fabrication processes of Roman and Chinese high-tin bronze, Greek & Etruscan gold jewellery, Central and South American goldwork, Anglo-Saxon technologies, Iron Age gold and precious metal, ancient gold refining and ancient tool marks, tinning, plating and casting. The application and development of scanning electron microscopy and microanalysis to archaeometallurgy and to the examination of the wide range of artefact materials at the British Museum, is a specialisation. Address: Department of Conservation, Documentation and Science, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, UK. Email: nmeeks@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Catherine Higgitt graduated in chemistry from the University of York in 1994 and completed a PhD degree in chemistry at the same institution in 1998. After one year working for the Historic Scotland Conservation Centre in Edinburgh, she joined the Scientific Department at the National Gallery in London in 1999, working with Raymond White. Here she specialised in the study of natural organic materials in old master paintings using spectroscopic, chromatographic and spectrometric methods. At the beginning of 2007 Catherine moved to the British Museum to take up the post of head of the Science Group in the Department of Conservation, Documentation and Science (the Department formed by the merger of the former Departments of Conservation and Scientific Research). Address: Department of Conservation, Documentation and Science, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, UK. Email: chiggitt@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Margaret Sax graduated in chemistry and physics at the University of London and started work in the department of Scientific Research at the British Museum in 1963. Working as a special assistant from 1979, Margaret's area of expertise is lapidary technology. Her research into the characteristics of tool marks preserved on stone artefacts has allowed her to develop a methodology based on scanning electron microscopy for the identification of ancient carving technique. She initially investigated the engraving of Mesopotamian quartz seals. In separate collaborative studies with Beijing University and the Smithsonian Institution, she is studying jades recovered from sites in China and Mesoamerica. In the present study, the methodology is applied to the glass openwork of the Lycurgus cup. Address: Department of Conservation, Documentation and Science, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, UK. Email: msax@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Rights and permissions

Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0 ), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Freestone, I., Meeks, N., Sax, M. et al. The Lycurgus Cup — A Roman nanotechnology. Gold Bull 40, 270–277 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03215599

Download citation

Keywords

  • Soda Lime
  • Silver Gold
  • Tool Mark
  • Unusual Colour
  • Ancient Glass