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Lenses in Antiquity

George Sines and Yannis A. Sakellarakis
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 91, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 191-196
DOI: 10.2307/505216
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/505216
Page Count: 6
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Lenses in Antiquity
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Abstract

A recent find in the Idaean Cave in Crete of two rock crystal lenses of unusually good optical quality led to this investigation of other lenses from antiquity. The evidence indicates that the use of lenses was widespread throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin over several millennia. The quality of some of these lenses was sufficient to permit their use as magnifying glasses. The use of lenses as burning glasses in Classical Greece is noted, as is the need for magnifying lenses to authenticate seal impressions. The probability that magnifying lenses were used by gem carvers and seal engravers is discussed. The fine detail of Roman gold-glass portrait medallions and the discovery of a lens in the house of an engraver in Pompeii and another in the house of an artist in Tanis are presented as evidence for the use of the lenses for magnifying purposes. Methods of producing optical quality lenses by simple procedures are also presented.

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