Antiquities > Oil Lamps

Red Slip Oil Lamp Fragment with Medusa from Caesarea Maritima and Fingerprints

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Hi, all.  Here is a neat little oil lamp fragment with the head of Medusa.  The decorative type is close to the illustration in RomQ's collection (Knell type VA9), but the red-slip fabric is different and there is no way to match the shape of the lamp with so little remaining.  What is interesting about this piece is the wonderfully clear thumb print on the reverse, where the clay was pushed into the mould.  Are fingerprints hereditary?  Maybe we could narrow down the origin and ethnicity of the maker! ;D  Any ideas on the actual type of lamp and origin (N. Africa or Italy?) would be appreciated.  I realize it is difficult given the worn state of the finish.  Thanks, V-drome

Decorated Oil Lamp Discus with Medusa
Caesarea Maritima
1st-2nd Century CE
Fragment of an Early Roman oil lamp consisting of the
central part of a discus decorated with the head of Medusa
facing, slightly to left.   
Fabric: Medium fine grained, light tan clay with red slip. 
Manufacture: Mould made.
Dimensions: 2.95 x 2.9 x 0.6cm.  Weight: 2.88gm.
Surface find Caesarea Maritima, 1977
(click for Larger pic)


Joe Sermarini:

CSI-Caesarea Maritima!


Sorry for the delay in responding. Life has been a bit chaotic recently!

I doubt that this is a discus fragment. The traces of red slip on the underside and the centralised fingerprint (thumbprint?) with clear border strongly suggest that this item is a broken 'Lampendeckel', a lamp lid.

These lids typically have a stem on the underside to fit into the filling-hole but I suspect that this example was the hinged type and originally had a hinge extension (now missing) above the head of Medusa.

Probably an Italian product of the late 1st to early 2nd centuries AD. There are several of them illustrated in Schäfer 1990, 77-82. I attach screenprints of two examples in the British Museum.

Not of huge commercial value but I personally find these lamp lids very interesting and if you could ever bear to part with it, please send me a PM.


Very interesting!  I did not know these existed.  I have a few more similar objects that I will post soon.  Perhaps you can let me know if you think they are also lids, as opposed to parts of the discus.



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