Roman Era Tear Collector Bottles

This is Zak, proprietor of Zak’s Antiquities (Christian Quarter, shop #24).  He is a good friend to the BYU students and LDS visitors to Jerusalem.  We visited his shop and I learned about these tear catching bottles and how they were used in ancient times.  This gives new meaning to stories in the scriptures like when the woman bathed Jesus’s feet with her tears.

Tears are precious and also sacred.  They represent the affections of our hearts.  How interesting that women collected and saved their tears and shared them for very special occasions or when loved ones died.  I loved learning about these bottles.

This is from Zak’s website, where you can see more of these bottles:


Roman Glass Tear bottles is a small, long-necked ancient glass bottles from the Roman period are known by various names.

The term “piriform bottle” describes their shape, while “tear vial” describes one use of the bottle. Another title, “perfume flask,” describes an additional use and in our modern time Roman glass. The shape of these vessels makes them ideal for storing precious liquids, since the long, narrow neck acts as a funnel, allowing the contents to be collected or dispensed one drop at a time. The narrow neck is also easy to seal, preserving the contents.

Psalm 56:8 says, “You number my wanderings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” This suggests a practice of collecting tears to memorialize emotional occasions. According to a 1st or 2nd century AD document known as Biblical Antiquities, friends who were separated from one another collected their tears in a vessel and buried it as a memorial to their relationship. Additionally, a bottle filled with tears was found in a child’s grave in Jerusalem, suggesting that the family mourned for their little one and buried their tears with him as a memorial.

Tradition suggests that girls began collecting their tears in an ancient glass bottle “lacrimarium” at a young age, adding to the collection each time the emotions of life overcame them. As a young woman, she would present her bottle of tears to her husband as part of her wedding ceremony, entrusting him with a physical representation of her heart.

In addition to collecting tears, piriform bottles also served as containers for perfume. Numerous of these Roman glass ancient glass bottles have been discovered in 1st century tombs, suggesting a practice of anointing the dead with fragrant oil.

After the death of Jesus, the women prepared spices and fragrant oils for his burial, but the Passover holiday and the Sabbath prevented them from anointing him at once. Immediately after the Sabbath they went to the tomb, carrying their roman glass, sometimes out Herodian style pottery of fragrant oil with them. To their great surprise, they did not find Jesus’s body in the tomb. Instead, they met two men in shining garments who informed them that Jesus had risen from the dead.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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