Skip to main content

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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10


  1. Ayres M, Harris N (1997) REE fractionation and Nd-isotope disequilibrium during crustal anatexis: constraints from Himalayan leucogranites. Chem Geol 139(1-4):249–269

    Google Scholar 

  2. Beltsios KG, Oikonomou A, Zacharias N, Triantafyllidis P (2012) Characterization and provenance of archaeological glass artifacts from mainland and Aegean Greece. In: Liritzis I, Stevenson C (eds) The dating and provenance of volcanic and ancient manufactured glasses-a global overview. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, pp 166–184

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bertini C, Henderson J, Chenery S (2020) Seventh to eleventh century CE glass from Northern Italy: between continuity and innovation. J Archaeol Anthropol Sci 12:120.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Blomme A, Degryse P, Dotsika E, Ignatiadou D, Longinelli A, Silvestri A (2017) Provenance of polychrome and colourless 8th–4th century BC glass from Pieria, Greece: a chemical and isotopic approach. J Archaeol Sci 78:134–146

    Google Scholar 

  5. Blomme A, Elsen J, Brems D, Shortland A, Dotsika E, Degryse P (2016) Tracing the primary production location of core-formed glass vessels, Mediterranean Group I. J Archaeol Sci Rep 5:1–9

    Google Scholar 

  6. Brill RH, Stapleton CP (2012) Chemical Analyses of Early Glasses, Volume 3, the Years 2000–2011, Reports, and Essays. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

    Google Scholar 

  7. Brill RH (1988) Scientific investigations of the Jalame glass and related finds. In: Weinberg GD (ed) Excavations at Jalame. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Site of a Glass Factory in Late Roman Palestine, pp 257–294

    Google Scholar 

  8. Brill RH (1999) Chemical analyses of early glasses, vol 1&2. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

    Google Scholar 

  9. Cabanes P (1976) L’ Épire de la mort de Pyrrhos à la conquête romaine, Paris

  10. Ceglia A, Cosyns P, Nys K, Terryn H, Thienpont H, Meulebroeck W (2015) Late antique glass distribution and consumption in Cyprus: a chemical study. J Archaeol Sci 61:213–222

    Google Scholar 

  11. Chapman T, Clarke GL, Daczko NR (2016) Crustal differentiation in a thickened arc-evaluating depth dependences. J Petrol 57(3):595–620

    Google Scholar 

  12. Cheilakou E, Liarokapi N, Koui M (2012) Non destructive characterization by FOM and ESEM-EDX of ancient glass objects from the Aegean with an approach of the manufacturing technique. Mater Struct 45(1-2):235–250

    Google Scholar 

  13. Connolly P, Rehren Th, Doulgeri-Intzesiloglou A, Arachoviti P (2012) The Hellenistic glass of Pherai, Thessaly, in: D. Ignatiadou - A. Antonaras, (eds), Annales du 18e Congrès del’ Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre, pp. 91–97.

  14. Cosyns P, Nys K (2010) Core-formed glass vessels on Cyprus reconsidered. In: Christodolou, S., Satraki, A. (Eds.), Proceedings of POCA 2007 (Nicosia, October 2007). Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 231–261.

  15. Cosyns P, Oikonomou A, Ceglia A, Michaelides D (2018) Late Hellenistic and early Roman slumped and cast glass vessels from the House of Orpheus at Paphos, Cyprus. An Interim Report. J Archaeol Sci Rep 22:524–539

    Google Scholar 

  16. Dakaris S (1972) Thesprotia, Ancient Greek Cities 15. Athens (in Greek)

  17. Dardeniz G (2015) Was ancient Egypt the only supplier of natron? New research reveals major Anatolian deposits. Anatolica 41:191–202

    Google Scholar 

  18. Degryse P (ed) (2014) Glass making in the Greco-Roman world. Results of the ARCHGLASS Project, Leuven University Press

    Google Scholar 

  19. Devulder V, Vanhaecke F, Shortland A, Mattingly D, Jackson C, Degryse P (2014) Boron isotopic composition as a provenance indicator for the flux raw material in Roman natron glass. J Archaeol Sci 46:107–113

    Google Scholar 

  20. Foy D, Picon M, Vichy M and Thirion-Merle V (2003) Caractérisation des verres de la fin de l’Antiquité en Méditerranée occidentale: l’émergence de nouveaux courants commerciaux, Échanges et commerce du verre dans le monde antique, pp 41-85.

  21. Foy D (2005) Une production de bols moulés à Beyrouth à la fin de l'époque hellénistique et le commerce de ces verres en Méditerranée occidentale. J Glass Stud 47:11–35

    Google Scholar 

  22. Franke, P.R., 1961. Die antiken Münzen von Epirus, Wiesbaden.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Freestone IC, Degryse P, Lankton J, Gratuze B, Schneider J (2018) HIMT, glass composition and commodity branding in the primary glass industry. In: Rosenow D, Phelps M, Meek A, Freestone IC (eds) Things That Travelled: Glass in the First Millennium CE. UCL Press, London, pp 159–190

    Google Scholar 

  24. Freestone IC, Gorin-Rosen Y, Hughes MJ (2000) Primary glass from Israel and the production of glass in late antiquity and the Early Islamic period. In: Nenna, M-D. (ed), La route du verre. Ateliers primaires et secondaires du second millénaire av. J.C. au MoyenÂge, Maison de l’Orient Méditerranéen-Jean Pouilloux, Lyon, pp. 65–83.

  25. Gratuze B, Barrandon JN (1990) Islamic glass weights and stamps-analysis using nuclear techniques. Archaeometry 32:155–162

    Google Scholar 

  26. Grose DF (1989) Early ancient glass: core-formed, rod-formed, and cast vessels and objects from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Roman Empire, 1600 BC to 50 AD, The Toledo Museum of Art, Hudson Hills Press in Association with the Toledo Museum of Art, New York.

  27. Hammond NGL (1967) Epirus. The geography, the Ancient remains, the history and the topography of Epirus and adjacent areas, Oxford.

  28. Harden DM (1980) A Hellenistic footed glass bowl of Alexandrine Origin. Toledo Museum of Arts, Museum News 22, pp 17–25.

  29. Henderson J (2013) Ancient glass, an interdisciplinary exploration, Cambridge University Press, New York and Cambridge.

  30. Henderson J, Ma H and Evans J (2020) Glass production for the Silk Road? Provenance and trade of Islamic glasses using isotopic and chemical analyses in a geological context. J Archaeol Sci, 119: 105164

  31. Jackson CM and Cottam S (2015) ‘A green thought in a green shade’; compositional and typological observations concerning the production of emerald green glass vessels in the 1st century A.D. J Archaeol Sci, 61:139–148.

  32. Jackson CM, Paynter S, Nenna MD, Degryse P (2018) Glassmaking using natron from el-Barnugi (Egypt); Pliny and the Roman glass industry. J Archaeol Anthropol Sci 10(5):1179–1191

    Google Scholar 

  33. Jochum KP, Weis U, Stoll B, Kuzmin D, Yang Q, Raczek I, Jacob DE, Stracke A, Birbaum K, Frick DA, Günther D, Enzweiler J (2011) Determination of reference values for NIST SRM 610-617 glasses following ISO guidelines. Geostand Geoanal Res 35(4):397–429

    Google Scholar 

  34. Kanta-Kitsou A (2008) Gitana Thesprotias. Archaeological Guide, Athens (in Greek)

    Google Scholar 

  35. Kowatli I, Curvers HH, Stuart B, Sablerolles Y, Henderson J, Reynolds P (2008) A pottery and glassmaking site in Beirut (015). Bulletin de Archéologie et d’ Architecture Libanaises 10:103–120

    Google Scholar 

  36. Lazari K, Tzortzatou A, Kountouri K (2008) Dymokastro Thesprotias. Archaeological Guide, Athens (in Greek)

    Google Scholar 

  37. Lévêque P (1957) Pyrrhos, Paris

  38. Liakos L, and Vasileiadis S (2008) Determination of the area of exploitation and movement routes of the ancient settlements of Thesprotia and southern Albania using the surface cost analysis and the model Xtent., Proceedings of the 10th National Conference on Cartography, Hellenic Cartographic Society (in Greek).

  39. Nenna MD (1998) Les ateliers de verriers dans le monde grec aux époques classique et hellénistique. TOΠOI 8(2):693–701

    Google Scholar 

  40. Nenna M.-D. (2014) Egyptian glass abroad: HIMT glass and its market. In: D., Keller, J., Price and C., Jackson, (eds.), Neighbours and successors of Rome – Traditions of glass production and use in Europe and the Middle East in the later 1st millennium AD, Oxbow Books, pp 177–193.

  41. Nenna MD, Picon M, Vichy M (2000) Ateliers primaires et secondaires en Égypte à l’époque Gréco-romaine, in M.D. Nenna (ed.), La route du Verre. Ateliers primaires et secondaires du second millénaire av. J.-C. au Moyen Âge, Maison de l’Orient Méditerranéen-Jean Pouilloux, Lyon, pp 97–112.

  42. Oikonomou A, Triantafyllidis P (2018) An archaeometric study of Archaic glass from Rhodes, Greece: technological and provenance issues. J Archaeol Sci Rep 22:493–505

    Google Scholar 

  43. Oikonomou A (2019) An interdisciplinary study of Hellenistic glass objects from Thesprotia, Greece, in Chouliaras, I.P. and Pliakou, G.Th., (eds.), Thesprotia I. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on the Archaeology and History of Thesprotia, Ministry of Culture and Sports, Ephorate of Antiquities of Thesprotia, Ioannina, pp 345–360, (in Greek).

  44. Oikonomou A (2018) Hellenistic core formed glass from Epirus, Greece. A technological and provenance study. J Archaeol Sci Rep 22:513–523

    Google Scholar 

  45. Oikonomou A, Beltsios K, Zacharias N (2012) Analytical and technological study of an ancient glass collection from Thebes, Greece: an overall assessment. In: Ignatiadou, D., Antonaras, A., (eds), Annales du 18e Congrès del’ Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre, pp 81–86.

  46. Oikonomou A, Beltsios K, Zacharias N, Triantafyllidis P (2014) Technological and provenance study of archaic glassy materials from Rhodes Island using XRF and SEM/EDX analysis. Proceedings of the 39th International Symposium on Archaeometry, 28 May – 1 June 2012, Leuven, Belgium, pp 245–250

  47. Oikonomou A, Triantafyllidis P, Beltsios K, Zacharias N, Karakassides M (2008) Raman structural study of ancient glass artefacts from the island of Rhodes. J Non-Cryst Solids 354(2–9):768–772

    Google Scholar 

  48. Palamara E, Zacharias N, Kamitsos EI, Oikonomou A, Palles D, Möncke D (2015) Spectroscopic study of a historical glass collection from Thebes, Greece, by Raman and IR, in: Photos Jones, E., (ed), in collaboration with Bassiakos, Y., Filippaki, E., Hein, A., Karatasios, I., Kilikoglou, V., Kouloumpi, E., Proceedings of the 6th Symposium of HAS, British Archaeological Reports, pp 59–64.

  49. Paynter S (2008) Experiments in the reconstruction of Roman wood-fired glassworking furnaces: waste products and their formation processes. J Glass Stud 50:271–290

    Google Scholar 

  50. Phelps M, Freestone IC, Gorin-Rosen Y, Gratuze B (2016) Natron glass production and supply in the late antique and early medieval Near East: the effect of the Byzantine-Islamic transition. J Archaeol Sci 75:57–71

    Google Scholar 

  51. Reade WJ, Privat KL (2016) Chemical characterisation of archaeological glasses from the Hellenistic site of Jebel Khalid, Syria, by electron probe microanalysis. Heritage Science, DOI 4.

  52. Rehren T, Pusch E (2007) Glas für den Pharao - Glasherstellung in der Spätbronzezeit des Nahen Ostens. In: Wagner G (ed) Einführung in die Archäometrie. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

    Google Scholar 

  53. Rehren Th, Spencer L, Triantafyllidis P (2005) The primary production of glass at Hellenistic Rhodes, in H. Cool (Ed.), Annales du 16e Congres de l' Association Internationale pour l'Histoire du Verre, Nottingham, pp 39–43.

  54. Riginos G, Lazari K (2007) Elea Thesprotias. Archaeological guide of the site and the adjacent region, Athens (in Greek)

    Google Scholar 

  55. Schiering W (1991) Die Werkstatt des Pheidias in Olympia 2: Werkstattfunde, OF VIII, pp 11–14.

  56. Shortland AJ, Rogers N, Eremin K (2007) Trace element discriminants between Egyptian and Mesopotamian Late Bronze Age glasses. J Archaeol Sci 34:781–789

    Google Scholar 

  57. Shortland A, Degryse P, Walton M, Geer M, Lauwers V, Salou L (2011) The evaporitic deposits of Lake Fazda (Wadi Natrun, Egypt) and their use in Roman glass production. Archaeometry 53(5):916–929

    Google Scholar 

  58. Shortland A, Schachner L, Freestone I, Tite M (2006) Natron as a flux in the early vitreous materials industry: sources, beginnings and reasons for decline. J Archaeol Sci 33:521–530

    Google Scholar 

  59. Shortland AJ (2004) Evaporites of the Wadi Natrun: seasonal and annual variation and its implication for ancient exploitation. Archaeometry 46(4):497–516

    Google Scholar 

  60. Smirniou M, Gratuze B, Asderaki E, Nikolaou E (2018) Chemical compositional analysis of glass from the north cemetery of ancient Demetrias (Thessaly). J Archaeol Sci Rep 22:506–512

    Google Scholar 

  61. Sokaras D, Karydas A, Oikonomou A, Zacharias N, Beltsios K, Kantarelou V (2009) Combined elemental analysis of ancient glass beads by means of ion-beam, portable XRF and EPMA techniques. Anal Bioanal Chem 395:2199–2209

    Google Scholar 

  62. Stern EM and Schlick-Nolte B (1994) Early glass of the ancient world, 1600 B.C.-A.D. 50, Enesto Wolf Collection, Ostifildern.

  63. Thirion-Merle V (2005) Les Verres de Beyrouth et les verres du Haut Empire dans le monde occidental: Etude archéométrique. J Glass Stud 47:37–53

    Google Scholar 

  64. Triantafyllidis P et al. (in press) Rhodiake Hyalourgia II. The Hellenistic Glassworkshop. The Evidence and the Historical Implications.

  65. Triantafyllidis P (2000) Rhodian glassware I. Ministry of the Aegean Sea, Athens (in Greek)

    Google Scholar 

  66. Triantafyllidis P, Karatasios I, Andreopoulou-Magkou E (2012) Study of core-formed glass vessels from Rhodes. In: Zacharias, N., Georgakopoulou, M., Polikreti, K., Fakorellis, G., Vakoulis, Th., (eds), Proceedings of the 5th Symposium of HSA, University of Peloponnese Publications, pp. 529–544, (in Greek)

  67. Weinberg Gl.D (1969) Glass manufacture in Hellenistic Rhodes, Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον, 24, Μελέται, pp 143–151.

  68. Zacharias N, Beltsios K, Oikonomou A, Karydas AG, Aravantinos V, Bassiakos Y (2008a) Thermally and optically stimulated luminescence properties of an archaeological glass collection from Thebes, Greece. J Non-Cryst Solids 354(2–9):761–767

    Google Scholar 

  69. Zacharias N, Beltsios K, Oikonomou A, Karydas AG, Bassiakos Y, Michael CT, Zarkadas C (2008b) Solid-state luminescence for the optical examination of archaeological glass beads. Opt Mater 30(7):1127–1133

    Google Scholar 

Download references


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.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Oikonomou.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(XLSX 26 kb)


(DOCX 1142 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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).

Download citation


  • Natron glass
  • Hellenistic period
  • Thesprotia
  • Greece
  • Trace elements
  • Chemical composition