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Biography: Alessandro Sebastiani

Alessandro Sebastiani

Alessandro Sebastiani, a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, U.K. has been awarded a Rakow Grant for Glass Research.

As part of his fellowship, Dr. Sebastiani is directing major Roman excavations in the area of Alberese, near Grosseto, in southern Tuscany, one of the earliest glassmaking sites in Italy. He will use the Rakow Grant in his study of an assemblage of glass vessels recovered at the nearby site of Spolverino during the excavations of a complex of Roman industrial workshops. The excavations were conducted by the Alberese Archaeological Project between 2010 and 2013. The project is intended to identify two possible glass workshops in central Italy.

“The glass finds recovered could possibly suggest the presence of a production center,” Dr. Sebastiani says. “The study will provide a systematic analysis of the structures, a detailed catalog of the glass vessels, and all the material culture recovered during the excavations.”

Spolverino was a river port settlement on the Ombrone River, and the project was established to understand its nature and its relationship with the nearby temple area dedicated to Diana Umbronensis. Four years of excavations have uncovered what Dr. Sebastiani describes as “an exceptional settlement,” consisting of a series of workshops that produced iron and lead ingots, bronze objects, and possibly glass vessels. The workshop complex, which appears to have been continuously active between the first and sixth centuries, has at least 13 rooms, each of which was devoted to a particular type of manufacture.

“The workshop complex included at least two possible glass workshops,” Dr. Sebastiani explains. “Both were equipped with circular blowing kilns and dolia to store fresh water. In the third century A.D., a massive, circular structure, possibly a kiln, was built, and part of this project is to understand its function. ... The size of the furnace [D. 4 m] could be indicative of the volume of the production at the site between the third and mid-fifth centuries. Around the area of the main furnaces, a quantity of vessel and window glass has been recovered, which dates from the second to late fifth centuries. A preliminary analysis of the glass assemblage suggests, firstly, that the putative production could have relied on recycling of older material and, secondly, that this was carried out in a process of selective use of colors and specific parts of older vessels.”

Dr. Sebastiani, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Siena, is also a consulting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia, and vice president of the Grosseto Cultural Foundation. He has published several articles and papers on Roman cities and urbanism, medieval monasteries, and pottery studies.