Regional patterns in medieval European glass composition as a provenancing tool

Publication date: October 2019

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 110

Author(s): L.W. Adlington, I.C. Freestone, J.J. Kunicki-Goldfinger, T. Ayers, H. Gilderdale Scott, A. Eavis


A legacy dataset of 1329 major element analyses of medieval glass (12th-15th centuries) has been compiled and analysed for geographical distribution of compositional characteristics. Three regional compositional types may be distinguished using simple elemental plots, associated with glass production in northwestern France, in the region around the Rhine, and in central Europe. Distribution maps are presented to aid interpretation and use of the data. The application of the approach is illustrated through three case studies. Late thirteenth-early fourteenth century medieval stained glass from York Minster (n = 91), late fourteenth-century stained glass from New College Oxford (n = 79) and a single medieval mirror found in Egypt were analysed using scanning electron microscopy–energy dispersive analysis. The York coloured and white glasses were identical and consistent with an origin in NW France. In the late fourteenth century, the coloured glass samples from Oxford were from the Rhenish region, while the white glass is consistent with an origin in NW France or England. The mirror glass from Egypt is of central European origin, and similar mirror glass is known from Italy. The apparent dominance of German mirror production may reflect an advantage of the glass, which is low in iron. The meta-analysis of the legacy data shows significant potential for developing an understanding of the production and movement of medieval glass.