London, Oct 4 (ANI): Apart from being pro at making beautiful vessels, ornaments and plates from glass, Romans were also good at recycling the stuff, just like we do today.
A new study has found that towards the end of their rule in Britain, the Romans were recycling vast amounts of glass.
However, the researchers believe that this probably had less to do with their concern for the environment, and more to do with the fact that glass became scarcer in the northern fringes of the Roman Empire during the last century of their rule.
"We think this means the Romans were increasingly relying on recycling to produce the vessels they wanted, possibly because less glass was coming into that part of the Empire by that time," Planet Earth online quoted Harriet Foster, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service as saying.
In an attempt to understand how colourless glass was made and distributed during the mid-third to fourth centuries, Foster and co-author Caroline Jackson from the University of Sheffield decided to analyse the chemical composition of 128 samples of glass from 19 sites across Britain.
They sourced samples from intact vessels, bowls, jugs or plates held in museums around the country.
"We used a technique that meant having to destroy the glass in question, so we had to make sure the information we were getting about each piece outweighed the fact that we'd be destroying a tiny piece of valuable archaeology," said Foster.
The researchers used a sophisticated spectroscopic technique called ICP-AES, which can detect the major and minor element present in the glass, including metals the Romans used to decolour it.
Of the 128 samples, 46 had been decoloured using antimony, 13 with manganese and the remaining 69 contained both.
Dating evidence suggested the Romans might have increasingly relied on manganese over antimony by the mid-fourth century.
But the 69 samples that contain both metals point to recycling well into the fourth century.
"We think this means the Romans were increasingly relying on recycling to produce the vessels they wanted, possibly because less glass was coming into that part of the Empire by that time," explained Foster.
The Roman Empire may have started to fragment by the end of the fourth century. There's less evidence for investment in public buildings, statues and amenities. And trade seems to have slowed down.
But the researchers can say that their findings point to the Romans using three distinct sources of raw materials to make their glass. However, they're still no clearer about where this glass was produced.
The research was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. (ANI)