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Ancient Oil Lamps

The major use of the ancient lamp was illumination of homes, shops and public buildings. At Pompeii, around 500 lamps were used on one commercial street to light the shops. At religious festivals and games, an enormous number of lamps might be used and large quantities of lamps were used 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. All but the most desirable and very finest ancient lamps are priced under $400 and an attractive historical collection can be acquired for a reasonable amount of money.


Byzantine - Islamic, Eastern Mediterranean, Unglazed Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 6th - 7th Century A.D.

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This type has been found in Egypt, Cyprus and the Levante. We purchased this lamp many years ago from a New Jersey dealer. It was part of a large of a group of lamps which he acquired from a dealer in Jerusalem.
AH21446. unglazed pottery oil lamp; cf. Bailey BMC III Q2276 (Wadi Sarga, near Asyut, Egypt), Schloessinger 506 - 507 (Jerusalem), near Choice, complete and intact, encrustations, partial slip, c. 6th - 7th Century A.D.; 8.5 cm (3 3/8") long, 5 cm (2") tall; pink-orange clay with a brown slip, wheel made with applied nozzle and handle, slightly flared filling hole, narrow neck, body lightly ribbed with wheel marks, wide steep shoulders to a low carination, nozzle slightly rising, handle attached at filling hole rim and shoulder; $120.00 (€105.60)
 


Judaean Kingdom - Roman Judaea, Herodian Oil Lamp, c. 25 B.C. - 100 A.D.

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This simple but elegant lamp design was developed during the reign of Herod, and thus they are called Herodian Lamps today. The type is found throughout all of Israel, especially in Jewish towns and areas, such as Jerusalem and Judea. Some have been found in Jordan. It is believed to be a type used mainly by Jews. They remained in common use until the end of the first century. The latest examples, from the middle of the second century, have been found in Judean Desert caves. Attempts have been made to more precisely date some of these lamps based on variations, however, excavations indicate the variations occur simultaneously.
AL93890. Herodian oil lamp; cf. Adler 3.1.HER.3, 96; Hays ROM 53; Schloessinger 331 - 332; 9.3 cm (3 5/8") long, 5.7 cm (2 1/4") wide, Choice, complete and intact, slightest chipping in nozzle, minor encrustations, c. 25 B.C. - 100 A.D.; finely made, pink-orange clay, buff-cream slip, rounded wheel made body with flat top, sharp carination to vertical sides, nozzle with a splayed shape with nearly straight sides hand-formed separately and attached, joint between the nozzle and body smoothed with a knife, rim around filling hole; $270.00 (€237.60)
 


Judaean Kingdom - Roman Judaea, Herodian Oil Lamp, c. 25 B.C. - 100 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
This simple but elegant lamp design was developed during the reign of Herod, and thus they are called Herodian Lamps today. The type is found throughout all of Israel, especially in Jewish towns and areas, such as Jerusalem and Judea. Some have been found in Jordan. It is believed to be a type used mainly by Jews. They remained in common use until the end of the first century. The latest examples, from the middle of the second century, have been found in Judean Desert caves. Attempts have been made to more precisely date some of these lamps based on variations, however, excavations indicate the variations are simultaneous.

Chips in the filling hole edge are very common and were apparently often made intentionally by their ancient owners. Perhaps the larger hole made filling it easier or perhaps the hole was enlarged to retrieve a wick that fell inside. Despite this interesting historical feature, we will not charge you extra for the extra large hole. In fact, this lamp is considerably cheaper than a similar lamp without the chip.
AL93891. Herodian oil lamp, cf. Adler 3.1.HER.3, 92; Hays ROM 50; Schloessinger 331 - 332; Bailey BMC -; 9.0 cm (3 1/2") long, 6.2 cm (2 7/16") wide, Average+, cuts in the bottom and side of nozzle, chip in top at filling hole, c. 25 B.C. - 100 A.D.; buff-orange clay, cream slip, rounded wheel made body, nozzle with a splayed shape hand-formed separately and attached, joint between the nozzle and body smoothed with a knife, rim outside narrow discus ledge around filling hole; $120.00 (€105.60)
 


Roman Judaea, Herodian Oil Lamp, c. 25 B.C. - 100 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
This simple but elegant lamp design was developed during the reign of Herod, and thus they are called Herodian Lamps today. The type is found throughout all of Israel, especially in Jewish towns and areas, such as Jerusalem and Judea. Some have been found in Jordan. It is believed to be a type used mainly by Jews. They remained in common use until the end of the first century. The latest examples, from the middle of the second century, have been found in Judean Desert caves. Attempts have been made to more precisely date some of these lamps based on variations, however, excavations indicate the variations are simultaneous.
AL93878. Herodian oil lamp, cf. Adler 3.1.HER.3, 96; Hays ROM 53; Schloessinger 331 - 332; Bailey BMC -; 9.3 cm (3 5/8") long, 5.7 cm (2 1/4") wide, Average+, chip on nozzle, encrustations, c. 25 B.C. - 100 A.D.; buff-cream clay, rounded wheel made body, nozzle with a splayed shape and concave sides hand-formed separately and attached, joint between the nozzle and body smoothed with a knife, rim outside narrow discus ledge around filling hole, incised line across nozzle; $160.00 (€140.80) ON RESERVE


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Bi-Lanceolate Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 300 - 500 A.D.

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Adler notes these lamps are found throughout the northern part of Israel, especially in Beit Shean and Hamat Gader, and date to the fourth and fifth centuries. Hamat Gader was already a well known health and recreation site in Roman times, mentioned in Strabo, Origen and Eunapius, as well as the Rabbinic literature. Construction of the bath complex began in the 2nd century by the 10th Roman Legion, which was garrisoned in nearby Gadara. The ancient Hebrew name means hot springs of (the ancient city of) Gadara (modern Umm Qais). The Arabic name El-Hamma preserves this, and the name of the tel located near the site, Tel Bani, is a corruption of the Latin word meaning "baths." The empress Aelia Eudocia composed a poem praising the qualities of the multiple springs which was inscribed so that visitors could see it as they went into the pool. The photo to the right is the ruins of the 5th century synagogue at Hamat Gader. Click the photo to see a larger image.Hammat Gader Synagogue

AL93917. Bi-lanceolate pottery oil lamp; Adler Collection (website) type N2; 7.4 cm (2 7/8") long, Choice, completed and intact, light deposits, c. 300 - 500 A.D.; pink-orange clay, cream-buff slip, mold made with incised decoration, the body includes the entire lamp from tip of nozzle to tip of "tongue" handle, nearly round body, wide rim surrounds a large fill hole, incised herring-bone geometric wreath pattern on narrow convex shoulders, two incised lengthwise lines on the handle; $55.00 (€48.40)
 


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Bi-Lanceolate Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 300 - 500 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Adler notes these lamps are found throughout the northern part of Israel, especially in Beit Shean and Hamat Gader, and date to the fourth and fifth centuries. Hamat Gader was already a well known health and recreation site in Roman times, mentioned in Strabo, Origen and Eunapius, as well as the Rabbinic literature. Construction of the bath complex began in the 2nd century by the 10th Roman Legion, which was garrisoned in nearby Gadara (modern Umm Qais). The ancient Hebrew name means hot springs of (the ancient city of) Gadara. The Arabic name El-Hamma preserves this, and the name of the tel located near the site, Tel Bani, is a corruption of the Latin word meaning "baths." The empress Aelia Eudocia composed a poem praising the qualities of the multiple springs which was inscribed so that visitors could see it as they went into the pool. The photo to the right is of the ancient Roman baths. Click the photo to see a larger image.Hammat Gader Baths

AL93918. Bi-lanceolate pottery oil lamp; Adler Collection (website) type N2; 8.0 cm (3 1/8") long, near Choice, complete and intact, light encrustation, wear, c. 300 - 500 A.D.; pink-buff clay, mold made with incised decoration, the body includes the entire lamp from tip of nozzle to tip of "tongue" handle, wide rim surrounds a large fill hole, incised herring-bone geometric wreath pattern on narrow convex shoulders, two incised lengthwise lines on the handle, incised lines between fill hold rim and nozzle; $45.00 (€39.60)
 


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Bi-Lanceolate Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 300 - 500 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Adler notes these lamps are found throughout the northern part of Israel, especially in Beit Shean and Hamat Gader, and date to the fourth and fifth centuries. Hamat Gader was already a well known health and recreation site in Roman times, mentioned in Strabo, Origen and Eunapius, as well as the Rabbinic literature. Construction of the bath complex began in the 2nd century by the 10th Roman Legion, which was garrisoned in nearby Gadara (modern Umm Qais). The ancient Hebrew name means hot springs of (the ancient city of) Gadara. The Arabic name El-Hamma preserves this, and the name of the tel located near the site, Tel Bani, is a corruption of the Latin word meaning "baths." The empress Aelia Eudocia composed a poem praising the qualities of the multiple springs which was inscribed so that visitors could see it as they went into the pool. The photo to the right is of the ancient Roman baths. Click the photo to see a larger image.Hammat Gader Baths

AL93919. Bi-lanceolate pottery oil lamp; Adler Collection (website) type N2; cf. Schloessinger 450; Bailey BMC -; 7.4 cm (2 7/8") long, near Choice, complete and intact, wear, c. 300 - 500 A.D.; pink-buff clay, mold made with incised and/or punched decoration, the body includes the entire lamp from tip of nozzle to tip of handle, wide rim surrounds a large fill hole, row of pellets in annulets over diagonal lines around shoulders, incised lines lengthwise on handle, annulet and punches ornamentation on the bottom; $55.00 (€48.40)
 


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Bi-Lanceolate Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 300 - 500 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Adler notes these lamps are found throughout the northern part of Israel, especially in Beit Shean and Hamat Gader, and date to the fourth and fifth centuries. Hamat Gader was already a well known health and recreation site in Roman times, mentioned in Strabo, Origen and Eunapius, as well as the Rabbinic literature. Construction of the bath complex began in the 2nd century by the 10th Roman Legion, which was garrisoned in nearby Gadara (modern Umm Qais). The ancient Hebrew name means hot springs of (the ancient city of) Gadara. The Arabic name El-Hamma preserves this, and the name of the tel located near the site, Tel Bani, is a corruption of the Latin word meaning "baths." The photo on the right is the inscription of empress Aelia Eudocia's poem praising the qualities of the springs at Hamat Gader, placed where visitors could see it as they went into the pool. Click the photo to see a larger image, translation and more information.Hammat Gader Baths

AL93921. Bi-lanceolate pottery oil lamp; Adler Collection (website) type N2; cf. Schloessinger 450; Bailey BMC -; 8.3 cm (3 1/4") long, near Choice, complete and intact, tiny bumps and chips, c. 300 - 500 A.D.; pink-buff clay, mold made with incised and punched decoration, the body includes the entire lamp from tip of nozzle to tip of handle, wide rim surrounds a large fill hole, row of pellets in annulets around shoulders, two incised lines lengthwise on the handle; $55.00 (€48.40)
 


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Bi-Lanceolate Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 300 - 500 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Adler notes these lamps are found throughout the northern part of Israel, especially in Beit Shean and Hamat Gader, and date to the fourth and fifth centuries. Hamat Gader was already a well known health and recreation site in Roman times, mentioned in Strabo, Origen and Eunapius, as well as the Rabbinic literature. Construction of the bath complex began in the 2nd century by the 10th Roman Legion, which was garrisoned in nearby Gadara (modern Umm Qais). The ancient Hebrew name means hot springs of (the ancient city of) Gadara. The Arabic name El-Hamma preserves this, and the name of the tel located near the site, Tel Bani, is a corruption of the Latin word meaning "baths." The photo on the right is the inscription of empress Aelia Eudocia's poem praising the qualities of the springs at Hamat Gader, placed where visitors could see it as they went into the pool. Click the photo to see a larger image, translation and more information.Hammat Gader Baths

AL93922. Bi-lanceolate pottery oil lamp; Adler Collection (website) type N2; cf. Schloessinger 450; Bailey BMC -; 8.0 cm (3 1/8") long, Choice, complete and intact, bumps, light encrustations, c. 300 - 500 A.D.; pink-buff clay, mold made with incised and punched decoration, the body includes the entire lamp from tip of nozzle to tip of handle, wide rim surrounds a large fill hole, incised herring-bone geometric wreath pattern on narrow shoulders, two pellets in annulets on the nozzle, three incised lines lengthwise on the handle; $55.00 (€48.40)
 


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Bi-Lanceolate Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 300 - 500 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Adler notes these lamps are found throughout the northern part of Israel, especially in Beit Shean and Hamat Gader, and date to the fourth and fifth centuries. Hamat Gader was already a well known health and recreation site in Roman times, mentioned in Strabo, Origen and Eunapius, as well as the Rabbinic literature. Construction of the bath complex began in the 2nd century by the 10th Roman Legion, which was garrisoned in nearby Gadara (modern Umm Qais). The ancient Hebrew name means hot springs of (the ancient city of) Gadara. The Arabic name El-Hamma preserves this, and the name of the tel located near the site, Tel Bani, is a corruption of the Latin word meaning "baths." The photo on the right is the inscription of empress Aelia Eudocia's poem praising the qualities of the springs at Hamat Gader, placed where visitors could see it as they went into the pool. Click the photo to see a larger image, translation and more information.Hammat Gader Baths

AL93888. Bi-lanceolate pottery oil lamp; Adler Collection (website) type N2; 8.7 cm (3 7/16") long, Average, much wear and chipping (mostly visible in the photo), c. 300 - 500 A.D.; pink clay, mold made with incised decoration, the body includes the entire lamp from tip of nozzle to tip of "tongue" handle, wide rim surrounds a large fill hole, incised herring-bone geometric wreath pattern on narrow convex shoulders, two incised lengthwise lines on the handle; $45.00 (€39.60)
 




  






REFERENCES|

Adler, N. Oil Lamps of the Holy Land from the Adler Collection. (Israel, 2004).
Alicu, D & E. Nemes. Roman Lamps from Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. BAR 18. (Oxford, 1977).
Amiran, R. Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land From its Beginning in the Neolithic Period to the End of the Iron Age. (New Brunswick, 1970).
Bailey, D. A Catalogue of Lamps in the British Museum. (British Museum, 1975-96).
Bailey, D. Excavations at Sidi Khrebish Benghazi (Berenice). Vol. III, Part 2: The Lamps. (Tripoli, 1985).
Bailey, D. Greek and Roman Pottery Lamps. (Portsmouth, 1963).
Baur, P. The lamps, The excavations at Dura-Europos conducted by Yale University and the French Academy of Inscriptions and Letters. Final report 4, pt. 3. (New Haven, 1947).
Broneer, O. Corinth, Vol. IV, Part II: Terracotta Lamps. (Princeton, 1930).
Broneer, O. Isthmai, Vol. III: Terracotta Lamps. (Princeton, 1977).
Djuric, S. The Anawati Collection, Ancient Lamps From the Mediterranean. (Toronto, 1995).
Ennabli, A. Lampes chrétiennes de Tunisie (Musée du Bardo et de Carthage). (Paris, 1976).
Frecer, R. Gerulata: The Lamps, A Survey of Roman Lamps in Pannonia. (Prague, 2014).
Goethert, K. Römische Lampen und Leuchter. Auswahlkatalog des Rheinischen Landesmuseums Trier (Schriftenreihe des Rhein. Ldesmus. Trier, 14). (Trier, 1997).
Hayes, J. Ancient Lamps in the Royal Ontario Museum - I: Greek and Roman Clay Lamps. (Toronto, 1980).
Howland, R. The Athenian Agora IV: Greek Lamps and their Survivals, American School at Athens, 1958.
Israeli, Y. & U. Avida. Oil-Lamps from Eretz Israel - the Louis and Carmen Warschaw collection at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. (Jerusalem, 1988)
Kehrberg, I. "Selected lamps and pottery from the Hippodrome at Jerash Syria" in Archéologie, Art et histoire, 1989.
Menzel, H. Antike Lampen im Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum zu Mainz. (Mainz, 1954).
Osborne, A. Lychnos et Lucema. Catalogue raisonné d'une collection de lampes en terre cuite trouvées en Egypte. (Alexandria, 1924).
Petrie, W. Ehnasya and Supplement. (London, 1904 - 1905).
Petrie, W. Gerar. (Vienna, 1928).
Perlzweig, J. The Athenian Agora VII: Lamps of the Roman Period, First to Seventh Century After Christ. (Princeton, 1961).
Rosenthal, R. & R. Sivan. Ancient Lamps in the Schloessinger Collection. Qedem 8. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Schäfer, S. & L. Marczoch. Lampen der Antikensammlung. (Frankfurt am Main, 1990).
Shier, L. Terracotta Lamps From Karanis, Egypt, Excavations of the University of Michigan. (Ann Arbor, 1978).
Slane, K. Corinth, Vol. XVIII, Part II: The Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, The Roman Pottery and Lamps. (Princeton, 1990).
Sussman, V. Greek and Hellenistic Wheel- and Mould-Made Closed Oil Lamps in the Holy Land, Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. BAR 2015. (Jerusalem, 2009).
Sussman, V. Oil-Lamps in the Holy Land: Saucer Lamps: From the Beginning to the Hellenistic Period: Collections of the Israel Antiquities Authority. BAR 1598. (Jerusalem, 2007).
Sussman, V. Ornamented Jewish Oil-Lamps From the Destruction of the Second Temple Through the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. (Jerusalem, 1972).
Sussman, V. Roman Period Oil Lamps in the Holy Land: Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. BAR 2447. (Oxford, 2012).
Szentléleky, T. Ancient Lamps. (Amsterdam, 1969).
Tushingham, D. Excavations in Jerusalem, 1961-67, Vol. I. (Toronto, 1985).
Walters, H. Catalogue of the Greek and Roman Lamps in the British Museum. (British Museum, 1914).

See Lamp in NumisWiki for additional references.

Catalog current as of Sunday, December 8, 2019.
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Oil Lamps