Three glass beads discovered in a 5th century burial mound near Kyoto, Japan, were believed to have been made by Roman craftsmen.
Researchers from the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties have dated the light yellow and gilt beads to between the 1st and 4th centuries AD. Remarkably, they were made with natron, a chemical widely used by Roman craftsmen to melt and shape glass. The beads were drilled through the middle and crafted by a sophisticated method of layering the glass with gold leaf.
Researcher Tomomi Tamura told the Bangkok Post, “They are one of the oldest multi-layered glass products found in Japan, and very rare accessories that were believed to be made in the Roman Empire and sent to Japan.”
At its height, the territorial extent of the Roman Empire reached as far east as modern Azerbaijan, to the shores of the Caspian Sea. The discovery of a Roman artefact in Japan, some 6,000 miles from Rome, suggests that the cultural influence of the Empire penetrated deep into Asia through trade, rather than military conquest.
Tamura said the discovery of the glass beads will “lead to further studies on how they could have got all the way to Japan.”