A piece of glass jewellery (profile) measuring 5mm in diameter and believed to have been made by Roman craftsmen. The item was found in a 5th century tomb at Nagaoka-kyo, Kyoto Japan
Image credit Nara National Institute for Cultural Properties/AFP


Glass jewellery believed to have been made by Roman craftsmen has been found in an ancient tomb in Japan, researchers said Friday [22 June], in a sign the empire’s influence may have reached the edge of Asia.

Tests have revealed three glass beads discovered in the Fifth Century “Utsukushi” burial mound in Nagaoka, near Kyoto, were probably made some time between the first and the fourth century, the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties said. The government-backed institute has recently finished analysing components of the glass beads, measuring five millimetres (0.2 inches) in diametre, with tiny fragments of gilt attached. It found that the light yellow beads were made with natron, a chemical used to melt glass by craftsmen in the empire, which succeeded the Roman Republic in 27 BC and was ultimately ended by the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. 

Perhaps something of an exaggeration to say the Roman ‘empire’s influence may have reached the edge of Asia.’ In the early 8th century Shōsō-in (正倉院) repository in Nara there are items originating from Tang China (via Korea) from as far away as India, Iran (Persia), Greece, Rome and Egypt. Persian textiles are particularly evident in the Shōsō-in, and their ancient designs are still to be found in some modern Japanese textiles. These imports might be seen more as desirable and exotic fashion statements rather than a direct, or even indirect, Roman or Middle Eastern influence.


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