A Roman Blue glass Acetabulum, ca 1st century AD

Acquired in Aleppo, Syria, this piece with small circular foot, funnel shaped body, and an out-curved rim with fold on underside. Smithsonian accession number 290893 in black pigment near base.

Background:  These cups, called acetabulum, were used at table to hold sauces and in the kitchen for measuring ingredients.  For example,  while our recipes call for a cup of flour, the Roman recipe would call for an acetabulum of flour.  Although these cups had multiple uses, including holding honey, the acetabulem is so named from the word acetum meaning vinegar in reference to their use as a container for that substance.  These pieces were also used in a “thimble-rig” game, a slight of hand entertainment in which spectators would guess under which acetabulum was hidden a stone or similar small object. 

Reference: Hayes J. W. Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto, 1975. Susan H. Auth "Ancient Glass at the Newark Museum from the Eugene Schaefer collection" (1976). 

Condition: The vessel is in excellent condition. There is fragile iridescence on the outside and inside, much of the inside is covered with a layer of iridescence and dirt. No apparent sign of damage except for a 1cm long hairline  crack to body.  Also, identification sticker inside cup.

Dimensions: Height 1.75 inches (4.5 centimeters), Diameter 3.5 inches (8.9 centimeters) 

Published: McGovern-Huffman, S. "Magical, Mystical Roman Glass, the Lenman/Stohlman Collection of Ancient Roman Glass" (2012) pg 41.

Provenance: Forming part of the Lenman/Stohlman collection assembled by the Washington D.C. socialite Miss Isobel H. Lenman (1845 - 1931), in the early 1900’s. Loaned and accessioned by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., between 1916 and 1921 where it was exhibited until her death in 1931. Thereafter, the collection was returned to her heirs and sold around 1937 to Dr. Martin Stohlman, remaining with the Stohlman family until 2011.



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