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Provenance and technology of fourth–second century BC glass from three sites in ancient Thesprotia, Greece

Abstract

Thesprotia, one of the most remote regions in Greece, was inhabited from as early as the Palaeolithic period. The particular geomorphological terrain, with the mountainous and fragmented landscape, has been determinant in the formation of economic and social institutions throughout antiquity. Thesprotia was gradually developed into an important node of communication and transport of goods to the West and the mountainous hinterland of Epirus. During the second half of fourth century BC, socioeconomic changes occurred in the region and small villages were joined to form the first organised settlements. Elea, Gitana and Dymokastro were founded within a few years from one another, during the fourth century BC. Built at geographically crucial locations that ensured the control of the valleys or the riverside crossings and sea routes, they evolved gradually into political, economic and administrative centres for the surrounding areas. In the present study, 56 samples of glass, excavated from these three sites in Thesprotia, are investigated using analytical techniques (SEM-EDX and LA-ICP-MS). The chemical compositions of the samples show significant differences in raw materials used and provide evidence for provenance for the artefacts. This is the first study to examine Hellenistic glass from within a region of northern Greece. The results are compared with other published compositional data for Hellenistic glass. The analytical results for the majority of glass samples from the three sites in Thesprotia show with high probability a Levantine origin and therefore also possibly for the artefacts themselves. This confirms the archaeological record of trade in other materials/objects, while a small group of glasses from Gitana in Thesprotia were made in Egypt.

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Acknowledgements

AO would like to thank Prof. N. Zacharias for providing access to the SEM-EDX facility at the Laboratory of Archaeometry, University of Peloponnese, Kalamata, Greece; G. Riginos (former Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Thesprotia) and Dr. I. Chouliaras (current Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Thesprotia) for providing access to the material under study; and the Greek Ministry of Culture for issuing the permits for this research.

This research was part of the research project Glasstech2013-Continuity and change in the emergence of the Hellenistic Glass industry in Greece, project number: 623645, FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IEF, Marie Curie Actions, Intra-European Fellowships (IEF). SC publishes with the permission of the Director, British Geological Survey.

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Oikonomou, A., Henderson, J. & Chenery, S. Provenance and technology of fourth–second century BC glass from three sites in ancient Thesprotia, Greece. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 12, 269 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01222-y

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Keywords

  • Natron glass
  • Hellenistic period
  • Thesprotia
  • Greece
  • Trace elements
  • Chemical composition
  • SEM-EDX
  • LA-ICP-MS