3.7 Vitreous materials

Surprisingly little work has been carried out on Scottish vitreous materials. This is largely because very little vitreous material was produced in Scotland until the post-medieval period. Glass-making in Scotland became significant only from the 17th century onwards, prior to that it is thought that all the glass had been imported. The exceptions are Bronze Age faience, which was being made in several areas in Britain (Sheridan and Shortland 2004), late Iron Age glass beads and bangles, the vitreous material cramp (Photos-Jones et al. 2007) and vitrified forts where vitrification has been used for dating studies as well as geochemistry (Sanderson et al. 1985).

Recent advances in analytical techniques being applied to glasses, such as isotopic techniques and sensitive, less destructive, techniques such as LA-ICP MS have allowed far more detailed characterisation of glasses and other vitreous materials, particularly in terms of identifying raw materials and provenance studies. There is a great deal of potential for such techniques in looking at Scottish vitreous materials in terms of identifying imported glasses, locally produced glasses and potential links between glassmaking and other industries such as the manufacture of alkalis from seaweed. Limitations remain in that completely non-destructive analysis of glasses is difficult, although recent advances in HH-XRF has allowed work into in situ historic window glass in England to be carried out successfully (e.g. Dungworth 2011) and there is the potential for this to be extended into Scotland.

Table 6: Work on Scottish vitreous materials

Material (date) Type of analysis Technique(s) Publication Comment  
BA faience Chemical SEM-EDS Sheridan and Shortland 2004 Composition and technology of Scottish faience
Iron Age and Early Historic glass Chemical XRF Henderson 1982  
Cramp   SEM-EDS, ICP-ES, ORA Photos-Jones et al. 2007  
Iron Age beads Chemical LA-ICP MS Bertini et al. 2011 Composition and provenance of several classes of Iron Age beads
Glass corrosion Chemical Raman, SIMs Robinet et al. 2004 In-situ study of corrosion of glass in museums  
Medieval stained glass Chemical Atomic Absorption Spectrometry Tennant et al. 1984