The magic transparency of the blue dish of Albenga

It is well known that glass manufacturing and the alchemical transformation of a siliceous powder into a transparent and delicate material has its charming and magical aspect, but that this process should already be known in the Roman period is the well kept secret within the walls of the Oddo Palace in Albenga. A secret revealed thanks to an extraordinary permanent exhibition, “Magic Transparencies” which since June 2009 has been disclosing to the world the astonishing treasure found in the archaeological excavations of the ancient Albingaunum.

Symbol of the collection is an extraordinary masterpiece found perfectly conserved and unique worldwide: the blue dish, made of cobalt blue glass with silver decorations. The plasticity of the shapes engraved in the metal and the precision of the decorations leads one to think that it was made by an Egyptian master glass-worker or a craftsman influenced by the culture of Alexandria.

The plate is the result of researches and excavations in the necropolis found along the ancient Julia Augusta Way, which have brought to the surface a chest of unique findings both for quantity – nearly two hundred pieces of immeasurable rarity and historic value – but above all for their shapes and colours. It is thanks to this treasure that Albenga may be considered the cradle of Ligurian archaeology: right here in the basin of the ancient Albingaunum, Nino Lamboglia began the extensive works of underwater archaeology which brought to light the treasures within the hulls of the ancient Roman ships which sank by the west Ligurian coast. A priceless collection of amphorae and earthenware vases (dolia), part of which is now on display at the Naval Museum of Albenga, integrated in the museum system managed by the Palazzo Oddo Foundation. These records of the strong Roman presence in the area are also certified by the remains of the spas from the Imperial period and by the findings on the bed of the river Centa and in the area of Pontelungo, as well as the amphitheatre and necropolis tracked down along the Julia Augusta way.

[Alessandra Chiappori]

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