Peter Moore, a master’s student at the University of York, discovered a fragment when he and his team were digging to understand more about the north wing of the National Trust’s Chedworth Roman Villa in Gloucestershire. It was so rare that it took around two years to identify it. The glass fish was unearthed a thousand miles away from where it was made, the area around the black sea (present Ukraine). It may have been used to hold exotic perfume.
Peter, from the Department of Archaeology, said: “When it appeared, the first wipe of the surface showed the color, and it quickly became apparent it was something special.
“Excavating anything at Chedworth and knowing that you are the first person to gaze upon it for at least 1,800 years is a feeling that never tires; the memory of recovering this piece of glass certainly will not.”
The glass piece was sent to Roman glass expert, the late Professor Jennifer Price, who sought the advice of other experts to find its origin.
It was matched with a fish-shaped bottle that had been restored from many pieces, which is housed in the Corning Museum of Glass, New York, and it concluded that the piece came from near the tail of a glassfish.
The Chedworth bottle has been made with an unusual technique, with the decoration laid on top of the blue-green surface to create scales in loops of white and yellow, and it is likely the fish’s open mouth formed the opening of the small vessel.
Nancy Grace, the National Trust archaeologist who led the work to investigate the find, said: “People have been enchanted by it, but it has also been a long and difficult journey.
“To have found that it is the only one of its type so far discovered in Roman Britain adds to our knowledge of the importance of Chedworth Roman Villa.
“Other objects found at the villa show it was home to somebody of wealth and status.
“That such an exotic thing was brought from so far away underlines that the occupants were in touch with the furthest regions of the Roman Empire and wanted to show off that influence. It is amazing that a small fragment has told us so much.”