Earliest-Known Glass Workshop North Of The Alps Uncovered In The Czech Republic

Published July 25, 2023
Updated July 26, 2023

Archaeologists believe that ancient people living in a site called Němčice in the Czech Republic during the third and second centuries B.C.E. produced glass items like beads and bracelets.

Czech Excavation Site

AntiquityThe excavation site at Němčice has yielded a number of archaeological treasures.

Archaeologists have long known that the early settlement site of Němčice in the Czech Republic was special. Since its discovery in 2002, researchers have discovered thousands of gold coins, sunken huts, and glass jewelry there. Now, they’ve determined that Němčice was the site of a glassmaking workshop, the oldest known workshop north of the Alps.

According to a study published in Antiquity, researchers had already suspected that people had produced glass at Němčice, given the abundance of glass objects found at the site. But they’d yet to prove that a workshop existed.

“No one yet knows how exactly the Celts made glass bracelets,” explained lead author Ivan Čižmář, an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeological Heritage Brno in the Czech Republic, in a statement. “Therefore, we were interested in anything that tells us something about the technology of production.”

To find out more about possible glass production at Němčice, Čižmář and his team excavated an area of the settlement where a number of glass objects had been found. They didn’t find glassmaking tools during their excavation — but they did find the proof they were looking for.

Glass Objects

AntiquitySome of the glass objects found at Němčice, which archaeologists now believe was an important glassmaking site.

During their excavation of the area, Čižmář and his team of archaeologists found both complete and partially complete glass objects. As they explained in their study, these glass objects in various states of completion strongly indicate that a glass workshop once existed at Němčice.

In addition, archaeologists also came across several amber objects. Like the glass objects, the amber objects were also found in various states of completion. They also excavated a square structure that bears a striking resemblance to other ancient buildings that were used for rituals.

These finds all suggest that the settlement at Němčice played an important role as a ritualistic and production center in the ancient world.

Ritualistic Structure

AntiquityIn addition to glass and amber objects, archaeologists also discovered a structure that may have served a ritualistic purpose.

“The presence of these likely sacred features at Němčice indicates the character of the site not only as a trade and production center, but also as a seat of an elite and a ritual center,” Čižmář explained.

These finds — and the 2,000 gold and silver coins minted by Celts which have been discovered at the site over the last 20 years — strongly suggest that Němčice was a stop on the “Amber Road” during the third and second centuries B.C.E. This trading network connected settlements near the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and Mediterranean Sea.

“We envisage Němčice forming part of a planned, broad-based Central European network of contemporaneous major centres distributed along the Amber Road — an important trade route linking the Baltic coast with the Adriatic region,” the researchers explained in their study.

“The existence of these centres testifies to a boom in Central European economy and society in the Middle La Tène period, which is perhaps related to influences from the south and south-east, from the Mediterranean region, but especially to specific Central European developments.”

As such, there’s still more to learn about Němčice and the people who once lived there. As the glass artifacts suggest, the settlement was once a thriving place of production, wealth, and beauty.

After reading about the ancient glass workshop discovered in the Czech Republic, see how an ancient Roman shrine replete with offerings was discovered high up in the Swiss Alps. Or, see how a melting glacier in the Italian Alps has revealed stunningly well-preserved artifacts from World War I.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "Earliest-Known Glass Workshop North Of The Alps Uncovered In The Czech Republic." AllThatsInteresting.com, July 25, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/nemcice-glass-workshop. Accessed June 24, 2024.