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Keywords:

  • GLASS;
  • LATE BRONZE AGE;
  • EGYPT;
  • COBALT;
  • PRODUCTION

Cobalt-blue glass of the Near and Middle Eastern Late Bronze Age has long been recognized as compositionally distinct from other contemporary glasses (Sayre 1967; Lilyquist et al. 1993). It has been suggested recently by Shortland and Tite (2000) that this chemical distinction reflects the use of Egyptian raw materials for making these glasses, different from those used to make glass in Mesopotamia, or its manufacture by Mesopotamian workmen, possibly in Egypt. This assumed that cobalt-bearing alum from the Western Oases and mineral natron from the Wadi Natrun were used for the cobalt-blue glass, while the other, probably Mesopotamian, glasses were made using plant ash as the main alkali source.  This note discusses some technical aspects of the possible ways in which the cobalt could have been added to the glass, and how this relates to the likely raw glass used in its making. Combining earlier suggestions by Noll (1981) and Brill in Lilyquist et al. (1993), an alternative explanation of the chemical characteristics is suggested, maintaining that all the glasses under discussion were made using plant ash. Differences in alkali concentrations probably reflect different soil and plant chemistries, and the colorant was probably added to the glass after being precipitated from the alum as a complex cobalt aluminium hydroxide.