Roman baubles found in ancient Japanese tomb

Glass jewellery believed to have been made by Roman craftsmen has been found in an ancient tomb in Japan, researchers said Friday, 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 5mm 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.

The beads, which have a hole through the middle, were made with a multilayering technique – a relatively sophisticated method in which craftsmen piled up layers of glass, often sandwiching gold leaf in between.


“They are one of the oldest multilayered glass products found in Japan, and very rare accessories that were believed to be made in the Roman Empire and sent to Japan,” said Tomomi Tamura, a researcher at the institute.

The Roman Empire was concentrated around the Mediterranean Sea and stretched northwards to occupy present-day England. The finding in Japan, some 10 000 kilometres from Italy, may shed some light on how far east its influence reached, Tamura said.

“It will also lead to further studies on how they could have got all the way to Japan,” she said. – AFP

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