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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 35, p3 (March 1992).

Copyright notice

Small Bottles from the Tombs of Sant Vincenç d'Enclar.

Small bottles from Sant Vincenç d'Enclar

The archaeological site of Sant Vincenç d'Enclar, which is situated at the entrance to the fertile valley of Andorra, has been the subject of several excavations since 1979. A varied amount of material continues to be uncovered, although it is often difficult to date it with accuracy. This is because of natural erosion on the site, as well as continuous human occupation.

Amongst the finds made have been flint tools from the Copper and Bronze Ages, ceramics, Roman money, and objects of bronze and silver. A silver item, the 'sivella visigotica', was reproduced on a stamp in 1989. Some pieces of glass have been found in different places, and most are of a green colour.

The best preserved glass objects have been found in human tombs. Three small bottles or phials, probably dating from the lXth century, have been found there. They were placed near the head or shoulders of the deceased. It is possible that these bottles served as pots for ointment or contained ritual offerings such as blood, oil or wine. The stamp shows two of these bottles. One is clear and of spherical form; the other of rainbow coloured glass is opaque, in the shape of a tear with a flat, curved rim.

In the tombs, two bottle necks were also found, and these may have contained parchment. This idea is based on the discovery of the Act of Consecration of the church of Castell d'Oliana, situated some 50km from Andorra, which was found in a bottle neck.


The following additional information has kindly been supplied by Richard Samuel of Seattle, WA.

  1. Much glass of the ancient world shows a distinct green coloration due to the high iron content of the sand used in early glass manufacture. In fact, as a rule of thumb, the darkest green glass usually originated in those areas where years later iron mining became a major industry. It wasn't until a few centuries later that "decolorization" by the addition of such things as Manganese Oxide enabled glassmakers to approach a truly colorless clear ("crystal") glass. "Decolorization" is actually somewhat of a misnomer as the process, ironically, involves adding one color to cancel out another.

  2. It is unlikely that the "rainbow" appearance of one of the bottles was intentional on the part of the maker. While it is known that the Romans made multicolored glass containers (through the method that preceeded glassblowing, called core-forming), the piece on the stamp looks more like a solid-colored piece that, like much ancient glass, took on an irridescence from chemical reactions with the earth in which it was buried for so many centuries.

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Andorran Philatelic Study Circle / Hon. Librarian: E. J. Jewell / apsc@free.fr /
Updated 10th September 1998