Axumite Glassware, Ethiopia
This is part of a set of ancient glass drinking vessels in the collection of the Archaeology Museum in Axum, Ethiopia.
I love the contrast between the restrained, classical shape of the basic vessel, including the fillet below the rim and the base that tapers almost like an amphora, and the lively decorative loops that dance their way around its circumference.
I'm also impressed by the consistency in shape and size between and among the individual pieces in this set.
The Axumite Kingdom maintained extensive trade ties with other parts of the ancient world, so this item could have come from any of several far-off markets. One of my viewers kindly informed me these pieces are believed to have been imported from Alexandria.
As different as the Axumite world was from ours, I'd like to think the excitement of unpacking these exotic goods and using them for the first time would have been the same in both societies.
While these pieces are probably well over a thousand years old, they look as fresh as anything you'd find in one of the hip art glass galleries in the Seattle area.
I'll take a dozen, thank you!
The Axumite Kingdom evolved from a city-state to a regional power between the second century before the current era and the second century of the current era.
At its peak between the third and sixth centuries of the current era, Axum controlled inter-regional and Red Sea trade. Axum is believed to have traded widely, with contacts in Byzantium, Alexandria and southern Europe.
Axum began to decline in the seventh century with the spread of Islam, which severed the trade routes that had been Axum's economic lifeblood.
A remnant of the Axum Kingdom persisted in the Blue Nile region until a rebellion finished it off in the tenth century.
I've complied with restrictions on the use of flash, and taken photos only when permitted by the museum.