Exotic glass types and the intensity of recycling in the northwest Quarter of Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan)

Gry H. Barfod, Ian C. Freestone, Ruth E. Jackson-Tal, Achim Lichtenberger, Rubina Raja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Major and trace elements are presented for 149 glass fragments ranging in date from the Roman to Early Islamic periods (1st – mid-8th centuries CE), excavated during the Danish-German Jerash Northwest Quarter Project's fieldwork between 2011 and 2016. The results confirm a clear dominance of Levantine glass types, but also reveal 12 glasses of Egyptian and Mesopotamian compositions recovered from two houses destroyed by the major earthquake which hit parts of the Levant in January 749 CE. These closed and undisturbed contexts from the final phase of occupation reveal the presence of relatively more pristine Levantine as well as imported material that is less visible in earlier contexts in the Gerasa assemblage, where the recycling indexes are high and chemical signatures of any exotic glass were largely lost due to remelting and their dilution by the overwhelming quantities of glass produced in the Levantine region. This emphasizes that imported glass may frequently be underestimated or even invisible in glass compositional studies, depending on the archaeological context sampled and the approach taken to artifact quantification. Levantine glass was attributed to Roman, Late Roman (Jalame) and Byzantine/Early Islamic (Apollonia) productions based primarily on MnO, Al2O3 and Na2O concentrations, which offered an advantage over previous approaches. While colorants in weakly colored glass indicate recycled material, their concentrations are sensitive to context, with higher concentrations in the early periods when the use of intentionally colored glass was more frequent. We have therefore developed the concept of the intensity of recycling, which was estimated using components modified during prolonged melting, such as K2O, P2O5 and Cl. A pronounced enrichment in CaO, also dependent upon the intensity of recycling, may affect the assignment to compositional groups and should be taken into consideration in future. Recycling in Gerasa appears to have been more intensive than was the case for cities closer to the primary production centers on the Mediterranean coast, consistent with the view that the dependency on recycling increases further away from the source of the primary material. In contrast, the cities in the coastal plain could readily exploit the marine transportation network, which appears to have played a major role in the distribution of raw glass. (361 words).

Original languageEnglish
Article number105546
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Gerasa
  • Glass analysis
  • Production
  • Recycling intensity
  • Roman and Byzantine glass
  • Trade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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