Changes in the supply of eastern Mediterranean glasses to Visigothic Spain

Publication date: July 2019

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 107

Author(s): Jorge De Juan Ares, Alfonso Vigil-Escalera Guirado, Yasmina Cáceres Gutiérrez, Nadine Schibille


This study presents the first comprehensive analysis of glass compositions from Visigothic Spain using high resolution laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). Major, minor and trace element patterns of 169 well-dated samples from three rural Iberian sites (Congosto, Gózquez and El Pelícano) have brought to light major chronological developments in the production, circulation and use of glass between the fifth and the eighth century CE. The data identify four distinct compositional groups of Egyptian and Levantine origin. Egyptian Foy 2.1, Foy 2.1 high Fe and so-called Magby alongside Apollonia-type Levantine I were the main glass types of the Visigothic period. Due to the tight dating of the majority of the samples, we were able to reveal fundamental changes in the geographical scope of glass supplies to the Iberian Peninsula, and to refine the chronological range of the known primary production groups. The glass group commonly known as série 2.1 or Foy 2.1 started being produced already during the second half of the fifth century. The appearance of Foy 2.1 high Fe can likewise be moved forward to the first half of the sixth century. A plant-ash group referred to as Magby was introduced around the middle of the sixth century. Egypt was undeniably the main supplier of raw glasses to the Iberian Peninsula up to the mid-sixth century CE, after which the Levantine I group became the prime glass type among the analysed assemblages. In the final stages of the Visigothic Kingdom and the early years of Islamic dominion, there is a noticeable drop in the absolute quantity of glass available, together with an increase in recycling. The implications of these transformations in the supply of glass for the organisation of Mediterranean trade are discussed.