Tracking the Glass Road

New evidence of the glass trade between Mesopotamia, Egypt and Europe has been uncovered

The glass trade between Mesopotamia and Egypt was only known from the so-called Amarna letters, a set of tablets in Akkadic language detailing diplomatic correspondence and referring to the glass trade between Syria and Egypt, while no archaeological evidence had ever been found.

A new study by Jeanette Varberg et al. from Moesgaard Museum, Denmark, in collaboration with the Danish National Museum, IRAMAT-CEB, UMR5060, CNRS/Univ. Orleans, Orleans, France and National History Museum of Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca, Romania and published in Journal of Archaeological Science ( has analysed glass beads from Egypt and Europe and suggests that glass rods found in Egypt were made in Mesopotamia, thus confirming the evidence in the Amarna letters.

Chemical analysis of glass beads found in Romania, Northern Germany and Denmark shows that they were also made from Mesopotamian glass, probably traded in the late Bronze Age, between 1400-1100 BCE. Some of the beads found in Europe, however, were made of a mixture of glass of Mesopotamian and Egyptian origin: probably, the mixture of the glass material took place at secondary workshops in the Mycenaean world.

“This is a clear break through. The glass beads are like chemical finger prints, that can show us were the trade routes through Europe – between South Scandinavia and the Mediterranean – likely crossed.” The research team says.

The presence of Mesopotamian glass beads in Egyptian, Romanian, German and Danish finds highlights the Bronze Age routes of exchange between Syria and Egypt, and the Mediterranean and South Scandinavia – which may be called the Glass Roads.

Examples of the glass beads is displayed in the Bronze Age exhibition at Moesgaard Museum

For further information, please contact:

Jeanette Varberg, phone: +45 2615 9105 e-mail:

Flemming Kaul, e-mail: