Humanities Information

Egyptian Handmade Perfume Bottles

Blown glass, a very ancient technique, is the oldest among the handicrafts. It is said by some, that ancient Egyptians were the original inventors of glass making techniques. Production of metallurgy and faience helped a great deal in the manufacture of glass afterwards. The earliest Egyptian glass known to us was in the form of small beads and pendants found in sites dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C. At that time glass was made by melting a combination of silica-sand, lime, and soda. The interaction of the heated soda and the hot sand formed a transparent flowing liquid, which was then permitted to cool forming glass.

The first glass vessels appeared in Egypt in the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. These were made by the technique of molding on a core made of mud and sand to form the shape of the vessel's interior. Then the core was submerged into viscous molten glass. Once the vessel was cold, the core had to be scraped out.

At that time, glass was regarded, as an artificial semi-precious stone and it was a costly novelty material, most likely the aristocracy owned no glass workshops since it was a royal monopoly.

The decline of royal power after the end of the New Kingdom put a stop to glass production for a time. Not till the Greco-Roman Period did new Egyptian glass centers arise in the Hellenistic cities of Alexandria and Naucratis.

The revolutionary invention of glass-blowing took place, probably in Syria, during the 1st century BC, though the technique did not reach Alexandria until the latter half of the following century when it was introduced by the Romans. The new discovery widely increased production and glass then ceased to be either a rarity or an upper-class prerogative.

Blown glass vessels were created by sticking a piece of molten glass onto one end of a blowpipe and through the other end introducing pressurized air into the pipe. This was done by mouth blowing. At that stage, the art of transformation into attractive shapes began. It was then cut with a copper wheel and ground with emery powder. After the vessel took its shape, decorations were added by pinching the hot glass, adding handles or other features to it, changing simple straight patterns into more intricate ones. After the coloring and hand painting process was completed, the bottles were put into a furnace with a very high temperature to set the color on the glass so that it is permanent. Afterwards, the bottles needed to be left out to cool. Then they were ready.

Nowadays, blown glass products are still made the same way our ancient ancestors used to make them. No extras are used but the very primitive tools used 7000 years ago and the golden fingers of the Egyptian craftsmen.

A. Basel


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