Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

Date Flask

Glass vessels had been produced as small luxury containers for oils and perfumes as early as 2500 BC. The Roman invention of glass blowing allowed for the rapid growth of the glass industry, since it made production of vessels more accessible and less expensive. Glass, however, is naturally light green and the creation of brightly colored glass, and surprisingly of clear glass, continued to require additional effort and resources. Similarly, the manipulation of glass into different forms required creativity and skill. Therefore, the market for elegant perfume bottles in a wide variety of colors and forms continued to expand.

The distinctive form of this mold-made bottle imitates the shape of a date. It may, in fact, have been used to hold date syrup, which was a popular sweet condiment in ancient Rome. It has been suggested that date syrup packaged in this type of bottle was a traditional New Year's gift. Many of these bottles survive, and they range in color from greenish-white to tan to brown—just like dates themselves.

Date Flask
Imperial period, 1st–3rd century AD
H. 2 9/16 in. (6.50 cm.), W. 1/2 in. (3.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Burton Y. Berry Collection, 76.35.46