Ancient Roman Glass
It’s difficult to say exactly when the first Roman glass tear bottles came into being, however, in the Old Testament of the Bible (NASB), a reference to collecting tears in a bottle appears in Psalm 56:8 when David prays to God, “You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your Book?”
David lived from 1055-1015 B.C. and wrote Psalm 56 about 1020 B.C. Tear bottles of the time might be made of glass, pottery, for sardonyx stone.
One might speculate that tear bottles were common enough during these times that David would make reference to the concept of collecting tears in a bottle so that his audiences would understand his message. Perhaps not. The Psalm reference may have purely metaphorical, only to inspire later use of tear bottles.
Because so many small bottles were found in caves, the theory was developed that they were part of the mourning ritual. The theory was that mourners would cry into the bottles as a sign of respect. It was also been held that mourners would be paid to attend the funerals of the wealthy: filling tear bottles and wailing loudly to create dramatic impact.
The items called tear bottles were rare in most Homes, but common among the wealthy. The only way to know for sure how the bottles were used would be to test the residue in historic bottles to determine if they were used for tears or fragrances. This will certainly happen eventually, but until then, each of us can choose our own belief.