Researcher's hand holding small globular clear cupping glass
Glass fragments used as cullet

In September 1608, eight German or Polish glassmakers arrived in Virginia with the Second Supply, and in December, they sent a glass trial back to England with Captain Christopher Newport. Early documents, including observations by John Smith and William Strachey, indicate that the glasshouse was constructed about a mile away, off Jamestown Island. A large-scale glass operation required glassmakers to maintain high heat, which posed a fire risk to the fort and surrounding area. Thus, it is only logical that this risky industry was established far from the fort.

However, in many early fort-period contexts, the presence of cullet, or recycled glass, suggests that the early glassmakers started their work immediately at the fort. Used in addition to raw materials and to lower the melting point of new glass batches, cullet is often recovered from ca. 1608-1610 contexts at the fort alongside crucibles that contain glassmaking residues. The glassmakers appear to have begun their first small trials of glass at the fort while the distant glasshouse was being constructed.

Although most glass waste can be used as cullet, glassmakers at Jamestown used discarded crown window glass. Crown glass was made by blowing molten glass into a hollow globe shape, then reheating and spinning it into a flat, circular-shaped sheet. When cool, the large disk was cut into individual panes for windows. The rounded edges and central bulls-eye were not suitable for windowpanes because of their uneven surfaces, thus they were discarded. Since James Fort’s earliest structures were not fitted with glass windows, the large quantity of crown glass waste at Jamestown indicates it was explicitly sent to Virginia for use as cullet in the first glass trials. Cullet was recovered in large numbers from Pit 1, Pit 3, and Pit 5, in the East Bulwark, and in the Factory, indicating that the glass trials occurred on the eastern edge of 1608 James Fort.

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