Ancient Oil Lamps
Reprinted by permission from "Artifacts of Ancient Civilizations" by Alex G. Malloy
The earliest lamp
other than a bowl
with a wick is a saucer lamp
. This lamp
is a pinched rim bowl
. It appeared with the introduction of wheel-made pottery
. It had
four pinched corners, used with four wick holes. The one-pinch corner lamp
, or cocked-hat lamp
, became the standard
for about 2000 years.
The first Greek lamps
were the cocked-hat type
, made in Athens
during the 7th century B.C. The transition to the bridged nozzle lamp
occurred in Asia Minor
then produced high-quality lamps
from the 6th to the 4th century B.C. These new types
were exported throughout the Mediterranean. They were wheel made, with a closed in shoulder and a distinct nozzle. They were glazed with the fine
black glaze used in Athens
. These lamps
were used down to the 3rd century B.C. All areas of the Greek world eventually copied these for local use. During the Hellenistic period, molded lamps
were produced; these became the standard
throughout the Roman
period. The early molded lamps
were simple, but by the 2nd century B.C., designs appeared on the shoulders.
The Roman lamp
in the 1st century A.D. had
reached a high state of quality
from workshops in Rome
became very popular throughout the Empire. They were eventually copied in local workshops. They typically had
a short, flat nozzle, and handles at the back. The early workshops all signed
with stamped names or symbols
at the base. Designed and ornamented shoulders were used in the Palestinian area
, and the frog lamp
from Roman Egypt
became a standard type
. This oval lamp
a frog relief image. The design changed later to palms incised at the shoulders. Various other designs were used.
The major use of the ancient lamp
was illumination of domestic, commercial, and public buildings. At religious festivals and games, lamps
were used on a large scale
. Thousands of lamps
were used during the secular games in 248 A.D. presented by Philip I
. At Pompeii, around 500 lamps
were used on a commercial street to light the shops. Lamps
were used in large quantities as votive
offerings to the gods in temples. Many lamps
are found in tombs where they were intended to light the way of the departed.
The ancient lamp
is an highly collected artifact. The values are generally under $300, and an attractive historical collection
can be acquired for a reasonable amount of money
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RomQ Collection - http://www.romulus2.com/lamps/index.shtml