Roman Unguentarium Bottle
Little gem like ancient Roman unguentarium . Circa 2nd century CE. Lovely intact bottle with clear aqua green glass. From the collection of retired antiquities Dealer Alex Malloy. Measures 1.6" in height.
“The earliest shape to be blown, the bulbous bottle with a tubular neck, was made throughout the Roman empire… This general purpose bottle, probably known as ampulla in antiquity, was made in a wide range of sizes. Small ampullae are called unguentaria or balsamaria in modern terminology after the contents which were often unguents or ointments, but the bottles were also used for scented oils, cosmetics, pigments, salves, medicines, and even dried herbs. The bulbous bottle was simply the simplest shape to blow because it needed very little tooling. The glassblower could make a spherical, piriform, or tubular bottle without touching the glass. The rim could be finished by reheating: the simple action of rotation caused the rim to flare outward and the edge to fold over” (Stern 2001:43).
“A small receptacle for toilet preparations (e.g.: oil, scent, kohl). They were made of glass in numerous sizes (usually from 3 to 16 cm. high) and forms. Some examples made of core glass are in the form of various types of Greek vases (e.g. aryballlos, alabastron, lekythos, ampulla) and have combed decoration. Others of the Roman period were of coloured or colorless glass and were of spherical or conical shape, with a slender neck… Many such objects were deposited in Roman tombs, mistakenly thought to have been used to hold tears of the mourners, and were sometimes called ‘tear bottles’ or ‘lachrymatories’… also called a balsamarium.” (Newman 1977)