Glass has been used as a form of artistic expression for approximately 3,500 years. First appearing in the form of small beads in Mesopotamia, glass was soon shaped around preformed cores of earth to make hollow vases. During the middle of the first century B.C.E, a process for blowing glass into a variety of shapes was invented, probably along the Levantine coast. This process revolutionized the glass industry and created the basis for the mass production of glass vessels during the Roman era. With the blowing technique established, glass became a desirable and inexpensive commodity, available in diverse colors and decorative enhancements, and glass had the unique quality of allowing the contents of a vessel to be seen through its walls.
Known as "unguentarium," bottles like these originally held perfume or oils for their wealthy owners. Given their widespread manufacture and use, Roman scent bottles are difficult to date and place geographically. However, a survey of published examples suggest that this particular piece was produced in Syria, a major center of glass production in the ancient world.