Biography: Sarah Jennings

Sarah Jennings

The 1996 Rakow Grant for Glass Research was awarded to Sarah Jennings, archaeologist with the Cen­tral Archaeological Service of English Heritage, for the prepara­tion of a report on glass found during excavations in Beirut, Lebanon. Before joining English Heritage, she held the po­sition of pottery or artifact researcher with a num­ber of British organizations, including the York Archaeological Trust, the Passmore Edwards Mu­seum in London, and the Trust for Lincolnshire Archaeology.

Between 1993 and 1995, a series of excavations took place in Beirut in advance of a massive pro­gram of reconstruction of parts of the city that had been devastated during the civil war. The largest excavation was a joint project of the American University of Beirut (AUB) and a British team. In addition to providing information about the histo­ry of Beirut from the Achaemenian period (sixth to fourth centuries B.C.) to the 19th century, the ex­cavation afforded the opportunity to train students of the AUB in current archaeological techniques.

The finds from the excavation include large quantities of glass, particularly of the Roman (first century B.C. to seventh century A.D.) and Mam­luk (1250–1517) periods. A preliminary analysis of this material revealed the presence of nearly 200 different forms, ranging from early Roman cast vessels to mold-blown and facet-cut Islamic objects. Many of the finds were recovered from stratified deposits that also contained coins and datable pottery. It was expected, therefore, that the study of the glass would result in a well-dated typol­ogy that represented (with gaps) more than 2,000 years of glassmaking. Particular interest attached to the discovery, in both Roman and Mamluk de­posits, of moils and other workshop debris, which suggested that glass was worked on or near the site.

Funds for the study and publication of the finds from the excavation were scarce, and the organizers gave priority to artifacts (such as coins, fine pottery, and earthenware lamps) that would provide the most information about the dates of the various structures and phases of occupation. The Rakow Grant enabled Ms. Jennings and a small team of assistants from the United Kingdom and the AUB to study the glass, enter information about it in the excavation’s electronic database, and pre­pare a report for publication.