The study of glass and glass artifacts is important to know more about ancient life, according to James W Lankton, honorary senior research fellow at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, London. He was delivering a talk on ‘Glass study in India: Archaeology and scientific analysis’ organised by the Kerala Council of Historical Research (KCHR) here on Tuesday.
“The earliest Indian glass was used for jewellery like bracelets, bangles and imitation of precious stones,” said Lankton.
“The use of glass probably began in Northern India and later spread to some parts of the south and south east asia.”
Lankton, author of ‘The Bead Timeline: Prehistory to 1200 CE’, spoke about how the study of glass can give glimpses into the technology, social structure, economy and other such facets of ancient life.
“For example, glass reflects social status,” he said. “A grave with a many glass artifacts, in all likelihood, belonged to a wealthy and upper class person.”
Beginning his talk with the basics of what constitutes glass and its brief history, Lankton went on describe some of his work, where he and his team had found glass beads in some parts of India that were similar to those that had been found at certain places in Thailand and South East Asia. “For example, we found soda glass at Phu Kho Thong in Thailand which was very similar to that excavated at Arikamedu in Tamil Nadu,” Lankton said. “This is probably suggestive of an ancient trading relation between these two regions.”
Glass, Lankton said, has its own language which can only be understood through coordinated study of texts, typology of glass, technology and scientific analysis.
“By studying the chemical composition like the trace elements present in glass like sodium, magnesium etc, we can give a geochemical fingerprint to the artifact - where it came from, the techniques used and so on,” he said. Studies on early glass in India, according to him, provide some of the best evidence for integration of Indian societies with the wider world through long-distance exchange networks.