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Work of the Week: Flask in the Shape of a Date

As we celebrate the arrival of 2018, here's a nod to new years long ago. This ancient Roman flask—just three inches long—was fashioned in the 1st century AD from amber-colored glass in the shape of a date, a symbol for the new year and a fruit often given as a gift on the occasion. Used as a container for oils and perfumes, the flask features realistic, smooth bends and folds that suggest the mold used to make it was cast from an actual dried date. For much of the 1st century, mold-blown glass objects like this one were luxuries available only to the wealthy, but this changed toward the end of the century, when technological innovations in glassblowing made these goods available to people of more modest means. Such molds could be used to create exact replicas in whimsical shapes like this, which were quite popular. Consider celebrating the new date by eating or giving a date—and stop by the museum to see this playful object for yourself.

Flask in the Shape of a Date is currently on display in Gallery 152.


Flask in the Shape of a Date, 1st century AD. Roman; Syria. Gift of H. H. Kohlsaat.