Research Interests

For the past five years my research energies have been consumed by two projects. The first was the completion of my dissertation dealing with gold glass of the Roman Empire. The second is my forthcoming publication of the man-made glass from the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma/American Academy in Rome Palatine East Excavation. Following is a brief description of each project.


Gold Glass of the Roman Empire

Historically, the term gold glass has been used to designate a variety of techniques, spanning at least eight centuries, with the only criteria being that gold-leaf decoration is made to adhere to a glass surface. The subject of my dissertation is a group of so-called gold-glass objects produced in the late third and fourth centuries AD. The technique involved spreading gold leaf over a glass surface and making it adhere. Images were drawn in the gold with a stylus or needle. After drying, another sheet of glass was added, fusing the gold-leaf decoration between the two layers. These images decorated the bases of cup-like vessels or were attached to the walls of shallow glass bowls. In their present state, only the imaged portions survive. Whether by accident or design, the other parts have been chipped away. The majority of gold-glass finds came from the Roman catacombs where they were inserted into the cement sealing individual loculi chambers. Imagery on the glasses includes subjects from the Old and the New Testaments; pagan deities; secular subjects; portraits of individuals, couples, and families; and Jewish symbols related to the Temple, synagogue worship, and the implements involved in such worship. My dissertation addresses issues surrounding the production, context, and function of gold-glass vessels in an attempt to better understand their place within late antique artistic production.


Glass from the Palatine East Excavation

Excavations begun in 1989 by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma and the American Academy in Rome revealed a late Roman building complex on the northeast slope of Rome's Palatine Hill. To date the site has yielded over 13,000 fragments of man-made glass. Of that number over 10,000 fragments are from contexts securely dated to the Roman period spanning the first to the late fifth or possibly early sixth century AD. The Palatine East assemblage is an important addition to a group of already published glass assemblages from sites on and around Rome's Palatine Hill. The forthcoming publication will include a catalog and a statistical summary of glass finds from the site.

Send questions or comments about this site to
Copyright © 2000 Stephanie L. Smith
Last modified: August 24, 2000