The Eretz Israel Glass Pavilion takes visitors on a unique journey through time, traveling back thousands of years to the earliest days of glassmaking in this region. Donated from the rich private collection of Dr. Walter Moses, who founded the Eretz Israel Museum in 1958, this rare and beautiful assemblage of glass has been enhanced over the years by exciting new acquisitions and significant donations.
Visitors to the Glass Pavilion are drawn not only by the enchanting displays of ancient glass objects, but also by the presentation of the history, range and intricate art of glassmaking. Among the unique features are fragile relics of glass dating from biblical times, as well as some of the earliest blown glass discovered from the Roman period. Contributing greatly to the study of the origins of glassmaking, and especially the important invention of glass blowing, the Pavilion highlights the crucial role played by this region in the discovery of glass and its production.
Pre-Blown Glass, Late Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period
(15th -1st centuries BCE)
The most ancient method of manufacturing glass utensils is core-forming. Using this technique, artisans created vessels, as seen in this exhibit, with a characteristic colorful opaque appearance, imitating by design such semi-precious stones as turquoise, lapis lazuli and alabaster. During the Hellenistic period (3rd - 1st centuries B.C.), casting or mold-forming became an established technique, particularly in the production of large and small bowls.
Blown Glass I, Roman and Byzantine periods
(1st- 7th centuries)
The world of glass was transformed with the introduction of glass-blowing, one of society's key technological discoveries. With the greater ease of production came lowered costs that led to a jump in their popularity. View an array of exquisite perfume bottles, created by blowing glass into a mold, adorned with decorations in relief.
Two rare and significant vessels are notable in this exhibit: a delicate drinking horn with two openings, known by its Greek name, rhyton; and "Ennion`s Blue Jug," bearing the signature of the artist, who lived in the first half of the 1st century, and representing one of his most beautiful and famous creations.
Blown Glass II, Islamic period
Glass vessels made in Eastern Mediterranean countries after the Arab conquest in the 7th century are displayed here. A highlight among the cosmetic containers with applied plastic decorations, which typified the beginning of the Islamic period, is an anthropomorphic rhyton. One of the most magnificent creations of Islamic art, a 14th-century Mameluke mosque lamp painted with enamel colors and gold is the centerpiece of this section.
The Glass Furnace from Khirbet Samariyah
The remnants of a glass furnace from the 13th century, discovered alongside the Crusader fortress at Sommelaria, north of Acre, is an extraordinary archaeological find. Glass residue still coats the floor of its melting chamber. Chunks of glass melted in ceramic bowls and other important finds unearthed in the dig fill the nearby showcases.
A unique archeological find exhibited for the first in Israel
On loan from Israel Antiquity Authorities
Gold-glass panel from the "Birds' Mosaic Mansion", Caesarea
Late 6th- early 7th century CE
On loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority
This splendid gold-glass panel is unparalleled in the world in terms of its nature, quality and state of preservation. It was unearthed in 2005 in a large building complex on the outskirts of Caesarea, known as the "Birds' Mosaic Mansion", after its magnificent mosaic floor, built during the last decades of Byzantine rule and destroyed during the Early Islamic conquest of Palestine (636-640/1 CE). The panel constitutes a masterpiece of Byzantine art in general, and of ancient glass art in particular, and is a singular and unique archeological finding. Since it was discovered it has become the focal point of the professional discourse among scholars throughout the world, and since the completion of the complex preservation and reconstruction process, has been exhibited in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Archeological Museum of Cologne.
The panel was found face down on the mosaic floor of the mansion's NW room under a layer of dark gray ash. It is assumed that it covered the surface of a wooden sigma table, burnt when the building was destroyed. Sigma tables of various materials, so named for their resemblance to the Greek letter sigma "C", became popular in the Byzantine period (often represented/appearing in paintings and mosaics depicting dining scenes - especially the Last Supper). Marble sigma tabletops were found in numerous Byzantine buildings in Caesarea, including the "Birds' Mosaic Mansion". The religious motifs decorating the glass panel, suggest that it might have served as a prayer altar or wall decoration of a prayer niche.
The panel consists of gold-glass and mosaic-glass tiles, combining various glass-decorative techniques. The square, rectangular and triangular gold-glass tiles were made by placing a patterned gold foil between two layers of glass, the thick bottom layer being cast and the thin top layer blown. At a later stage the glass was cut into different shapes and fitted together to form a geometric pattern in the opus sectile technique. The square gold-glass tiles were decorated with a stamped design of stylized flowers (rosettes) and crosses – this indicating the faith of the mansion's residents. The panel's raised border consists alternately of larger, thicker tiles of gold-glass and colorful opaque mosaic-glass.
A workshop for the manufacture of opus sectile wall decoration of colored stones excavated in Caesarea raises the possibility that this glass opus sectile panel was also produced locally, although one would have expected that such a unique object would have been produced in some major imperial workshop.