The Romans had a taste for luxury tableware, especially vessels made from semi-precious stones, gold, and silver. Vessels carved from various forms of chalcedony, especially agate, were very popular. Artisans carved large pieces of the stone into perfume bottles, cups, and bowls of various forms. The marbled brown and white coloring of this bowl, the translucent quality of its thin walls, and the subtle grooved decoration of the exterior are all typical features of these vessels, which were widely copied by Roman glassmakers.
This bowl was part of a large group of agate vessels discovered near Koptos in southern Egypt. Koptos, located on the Nile, was a stop on the trade route that connected the Arabian Sea and the Mediterranean. Agate travelled along this route from India, its main source in the ancient world, to Egypt, where the vessels were manufactured and shipped all over the Roman Empire.