One Plan of Solomon's Temple, as reconstructed from indications in the Bible
The extraordinary archaeological discovery was revealed during an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation prior to the construction of a road being built at the initiative of the Netivei Israel Company. During the excavation, carried out as part of the Jezreel Valley Railway Project between Ha-‘Emekim Junction and Yagur Junction, remains of the oldest kilns in Israel were discovered, where commercial quantities of raw glass were produced.
These kilns are roughly 1,600 years old (dating to the Late Roman period), and indicate that the Land of Israel was one of the foremost centers for glass production in the ancient world.
"We know from historical sources dating to the Roman period that the Valley of Akko was renowned for the excellent quality sand located there, which was highly suitable for the manufacture of glass," she added. "Chemical analyses conducted on glass vessels from this period which were discovered until now at sites in Europe and in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean basin have shown that the source of the glass is from our region.
"Now, for the first time, the kilns have been found where the raw material was manufactured that was used to produce this glassware."
Professor Ian Freestone of the University College London, who specializes in identifying the chemical composition of glass, described the find as "a sensational discovery."
"It is of great significance for understanding the entire system of the glass trade in antiquity," Freestone said. "This is evidence that Israel constituted a production center on an international scale; hence its glassware was widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean and Europe."
According to Sa‘id, "We exposed fragments of floors, pieces of vitrified bricks from the walls and ceiling of the kilns, and clean raw glass chips. We were absolutely overwhelmed with excitement when we understood the great significance of the find."
The kilns that were revealed consisted of two built compartments: a firebox where kindling was burnt to create a very high temperature, and a melting chamber in which the raw materials for the glass (clean beach sand and salt) were inserted and melted together at a temperature of 1,200 C degrees. The materials were heated for a week or two until enormous chunks of raw glass were produced, some of which weighed in excess of ten tons. At the end of the manufacturing process the kilns were cooled; the large glass chunks that were manufactured were broken into smaller pieces and were sold to workshops where they were melted again in order to produce glassware.
According to a price edict circulated by the Roman emperor Diocletian in the early fourth century CE, there were two kinds of glass: the first was known as Judean glass (from the Land of Israel) and the second was Alexandrian glass (from Alexandria, Egypt). Judean glass was a light green color and less expensive than Egyptian glass. The question was: Where were the centers that manufactured this Judean glass that was a branded product known throughout the Roman Empire, and whose price was engraved on stone tablets so as to ensure fair trade?
The current discovery completes the missing link in the research and indicates the location where the famous Judean glass was produced.
In a few months time the public will be able to see this discovery first-hand when it will be exhibited at the "Carmel Zvulun" Regional High school, in the Zevulun Regional Council.
The kilns that were just recently found are the earliest ones to be discovered so far in Israel. What's more, their relatively good state of preservation will make it possible to better understand the production process. Researchers now hope that by means of its chemical composition they will be able to trace the export of the glass throughout the Roman Empire.
The raw glass industry at Khirbat ‘Asafna was part of an extensive industrial zone where there were oil presses, wine presses and a glassware workshop which was excavated in the 1960’s by an American archaeological expedition.