A Clearer View Of Egyptian Glass

Discoveries

June 24, 2005

New excavations on the eastern Nile Delta show that ancient Egyptians had large-scale glassmaking operations several hundred years earlier than researchers had believed, and the archaeological remains provide the first solid evidence about how they did it, British and German researchers report.

The glass factory at Piramesses, which probably began production around 1250 B.C. -- about 100 years after the reign of King Tutankhamen -- used a two-step process in which pulverized quartz was heated with plant ash in ceramic jars to form a crude solid.

Crushed again, the raw glass was heated to higher temperatures and colorized to form valuable ingots that were shipped to fabricators in Egypt and throughout the Mediterranean region, the team reported last week in the journal Science.

"For the first time, we can actually demonstrate that people made glass there and how they did it," said archaeologist Thilo Rehren of University College, London, one of the paper's authors. "We're confirming what previously we could only guess about."

Glassmaking is thought to have originated in Mesopotamia -- now Iraq and Syria -- about 1550 B.C.

By 1250 B.C., the technology had become substantially better, although artisans could produce only opaque, colored glass used to make small items like perfume containers, figurines and other decorative objects.

Researchers knew that craftsmen at several sites in Egypt were working with glass ingots and using them to fabricate objects of art. But most assumed the ingots were brought in from Mesopotamia or elsewhere. A famous wrecked cargo vessel discovered off the Turkish coast of Ulu Burun in the 1980s carried 175 such ingots, and researchers had assumed that they were destined for Egypt.

The discovery reported Friday, however, strongly suggests that the ingots were manufactured in Egypt and bound for the Middle East, said glass expert Robert Brill of the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. Remains of the ceramic vessels used to manufacture ingots at Piramesses were virtually identical to those found on the Ulu Burun wreck, he said.

The modern-day village of Qantir is the site of the ancient city of Piramesses, built by Rameses II as the capital of northern Egypt. Rehren and his co-author, Edgar B. Pusch of the Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, Germany, have been working there for nearly two decades.

-- Los Angeles Times

Quick Takes

Healthy tea

Here's a twist on your early-morning cup of tea: an all-natural blend that contains the healthy properties of broccoli.

In the early 1990s, scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine discovered the natural compound sulforaphane glucosinolate, known as SGS, in broccoli. Scientists say the antioxidant boosts the body's own defense systems against disease. Now, a Hopkins-patented line of all-natural teas containing SGS is being marketed.

Brassica Teas (www.brassicatea.com), sold in eight flavors, are available at local stores including the Baltimore Coffee & Tea Co., Graul's Supermarket and Eddie's of Roland Park.

Delightful in taste without a hint of broccoli flavor, the teas sell for about $4.75 a box. Each box contains 16 bags.

You'll pay a little more for Brassica Teas. But a portion of the proceeds goes to the nonprofit Brassica Foundation, which researches the disease-preventing properties of vegetables.

Bottom Line: This is a simple way to get an extra dose of disease-fighting antioxidants without eating broccoli for breakfast.

-- Mary Beth Regan

Did you know...

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

-- National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In Brief

Heart attack survivors face risky first month

People are most at risk of dropping dead in the first month after a heart attack, a new study finds, but the most effective treatment to prevent this isn't done that early on because it, too, is considered riskiest then.

The new research should prompt doctors to rethink how patients are treated in those crucial early days. The rate of sudden death was 10 times higher in the first month after a heart attack compared with two years later, researchers reported in yesterday's New England Journal of Medicine.

"We need to consider therapies and strategies ... that could protect patients during this early vulnerable period following a heart attack," said Dr. Scott Solomon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the study.

Most heart attacks are caused by blockages that deprive the pumping muscle of blood and oxygen. Treatments can clear these and restore blood flow, but damage from the heart attack can lead to abnormal rhythms that can stop the heart without warning.

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