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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Antiquities| ▸ |Antiquities by Type| ▸ |Oil Lamps||View Options:  |  |  |   

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 Palestina III, Petraean-Early Byzantine Oil Lamp, c. 325 - 520 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Byzantine| |Palestina| |III,| |Petraean-Early| |Byzantine| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |325| |-| |520| |A.D.|,
Grawehr writes, "...firstly, lamps of this period were produced with great care and are well fired; they were of far better quality than their predecessors of the 3rd century A.D. Secondly, one single type - the Petraean-Early Byzantine lamp - is clearly dominating, and thirdly, this type is concentrated in a relatively small area east of the Wadi Arabah between Wadi Mujib and the Red Sea." He further notes that the quality attests to an upswing in the regional economy, but the distribution indicates increasing regionalism.
AL21909. Petraean-Early Byzantine Oil Lamp; Grawehr type L, 504 (very similar, Petra, Ez Zantur III, 325-520 A.D.); 8.7 cm long, 6.0 cm wide, Choice, intact, tiny chip in fill hole edge, small chip in shoulder (visible in photo), c. 325 - 520 A.D.; red clay, cream slip, mold-made, thin walled, piriform body, single rim around wick hole, double rim around large filling hole, very small knob handle, lines on nozzle radiating from wick hole the outer lines ending in a spiral, curved lines radiating from filling hole on shoulders, ring base, maker's mark VV on bottom below the handle; $280.00 SALE |PRICE| $252.00
 


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

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Judaean| |Kingdom| |-| |Roman| |Judaea,| |Herodian| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |25| |B.C.| |-| |100| |A.D.|,
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.
BK21914. Herodian oil lamp; cf. Adler 3.1.HER.3, 96; Hayes ROM 54; Schloessinger 332; 8.8 cm (3 1/2") long, 6.1 cm (2 3/8") wide, Choice, complete and intact, light bumps, light encrustations, c. 25 B.C. - 100 A.D.; rounded wheel made body, sloping shoulder with rounded carination to vertical sides, 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, incised line across nozzle; $250.00 SALE |PRICE| $225.00
 


Late Roman, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Jewish "Candlestick" Oil Lamp, c. 350 - 500 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Late| |Roman,| |Holyland| |(Syro-Palestinian),| |Jewish| |"Candlestick"| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |350| |-| |500| |A.D.|,
The pattern on the nozzle, branches issuing from a central ridge, is often called a "candlestick," meaning it is a representation of the menorah. A more menorah-like variation has the "candlestick" on a tripod base. Some authorities believe it is a palm branch and it is sometimes indecisively called a a palm-menorah. The strongest evidence that the palm-menorah actually is a menorah is a variation of this lamp with a cross on the nozzle. This suggests that Jews and Christians used the same type of lamp, differentiated only by their respective religious symbol, a phenomenon also encountered on North African Red-Slip Lamps. The type is found across Israel but most commonly in Jerusalem and within 50 kilometers of Jerusalem.
AL21776. Jewish Small "Candlestick" Oil Lamp; cf. Schloessinger 477, Menzel 657, Adler 905, Bailey BMC Q2300; 8.2 cm (3 1/4") long, near Choice, intact, bumps, encrustations, chip in filling hole rim, chip rear right shoulder (all visible in photos), small earlier variety, c. 350 - 500 A.D.; pink-buff light clay, tear drop shape from above, no handle, double rim around filling hole, decorative radiating pattern around shoulder continues on the nozzle with six branches from a central ridge (palm-menorah), ring base; $200.00 SALE |PRICE| $180.00
 


Byzantine Palestina III, Petraean-Early Byzantine Oil Lamp, c. 325 - 520 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Byzantine| |Palestina| |III,| |Petraean-Early| |Byzantine| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |325| |-| |520| |A.D.|,
Grawehr writes, "...firstly, lamps of this period were produced with great care and are well fired; they were of far better quality than their predecessors of the 3rd century A.D. Secondly, one single type - the Petraean-Early Byzantine lamp - is clearly dominating, and thirdly, this type is concentrated in a relatively small area east of the Wadi Arabah between Wadi Mujib and the Red Sea." He further notes that the quality attests to an upswing in the regional economy, but the distribution indicates increasing regionalism.
AL21907. Petraean-Early Byzantine Oil Lamp; Grawehr type L, 503 (nearly identical, Petra, Ez Zantur III, 325 - 520 A.D.), Zanoni 31; 8.7 cm long, 6.4 cm wide, Choice, complete and intact, encrustation, c. 325 - 520 A.D.; reddish clay, cream slip, mold-made, thin walled, piriform body, double rim around medium size filling hole, very small knob handle, lines on nozzle radiating from wick hole the outer lines ending in a spiral, pellets and and a wheel or star in circle on each shoulder, ring base with ornamental radiating lines; $180.00 SALE |PRICE| $162.00
 


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), "Elongated" Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 400 - 620 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Late| |Roman| |-| |Byzantine,| |Holyland| |(Syro-Palestinian),| |"Elongated"| |Pottery| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |400| |-| |620| |A.D.|,
This type is identified by Adler as a Transjordan elongated lamp. Adler writes that the shoulders are narrow and ornamented with a wide variety of motifs including linear bands, geometric, and floral designs; the handle is tongue shaped projecting horizontally and decorated with three or more bands; the nozzle is decorated with geometric or floral designs or rarely a cross. The type is found in the northern part of Transjordan, and in Israel, mainly in northern Israel and the Beit Shean area. They date to the fifth and sixth century but possibly also the beginning of the seventh century. In the Hellenistic and Roman eras Beit Shean was the Decapolis city Scythopolis. Click the photo on the right of the Roman theater at Beit Shean, to learn more about the city. Scythopolis
AL93905. Transjordan elongated lamp; Adler type JOR.1, cf. 967 ff. (none with cross); 8.9 cm (3 1/2") long, Choice, complete and intact, small bumps, light deposits, traces of a white slip, c. 400 - 600/620 A.D.; pink clay, mold made, elongated body, tongue shaped handle rising diagonally ornamented with three vertical bands, double rim around large filling hole, convex shoulders ornamented with geometric pattern of dots and lines, cross on nozzle; rare with cross; $180.00 SALE |PRICE| $162.00
 


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

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Late| |Roman| |-| |Byzantine,| |Holyland| |(Syro-Palestinian),| |Large| |Bi-Lanceolate| |Pottery| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |300| |-| |500| |A.D.|,
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
AL93907. Large Bi-lanceolate pottery oil lamp; Adler Collection (website) type N2; 10.8 cm (4 1/4") long, Choice, complete and intact, much of slip remaining, c. 300 - 500 A.D.; pink clay, cream-buff slip, 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 also with raised dots on narrow convex shoulders, two incised lengthwise lines on the handle; much larger then usual for the type; $170.00 SALE |PRICE| $153.00
 


Roman Palestina or Arabia, Nabataean Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 225 - 300 A.D.

|Hanukkah|, |Roman| |Palestina| |or| |Arabia,| |Nabataean| |Pottery| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |225| |-| |300| |A.D.|,
This lamp came to us in a group accumulated in Israel. The four Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta, with their associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes linking them to the Mediterranean are in the Negev Desert, southern Israel today. In his, Nabataean Clay Lamps, an Analytical Study of Art and Myths, Nabil Khariy identifies lamps known from the Nabataean sites, especially Petra, which can be differentiated from Greek, Roman and Judaean parallels and identified specifically as Nabataean made. Khariy notes that although the Nabataeans lost their independence in 106 A.D., excavations clearly show aspects of Nabataean culture continued until late in the 6th century A.D. Khariy 66, similar to this lamp, is described as made with a local clay and cruder than similar lamps from non-Nabataean sites. Grawehr type J3, like this lamp, has a larger filling hole than most similar lamps. The larger filling hole is found on late examples of the type.
AL21908. Nabatean Oil Lamp; cf. Khariy 66; Grawehr J3 (Petra, 225-300 A.D.) Murray-Ellis p. 26, 16 (Petra, ND); Negev-Sivan p. 117, 129 (Mampsis, 75-200 A.D.), near Choice, intact, small chips in handle, c. 225 - 300 A.D.; reddish-brown clay, round body, small rounded nozzle, small knob handle, defined ridge separating shoulders from plain concave discus, ten stamped rosettes impressed around shoulders, very low ring base; $150.00 (€135.00)
 


Greek, Athens(?), Miniature Pottery Oil Lamp, c. late 6th - mid 5th century B.C.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Greek,| |Athens(?),| |Miniature| |Pottery| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |late| |6th| |-| |mid| |5th| |century| |B.C.|,
The referenced lamp from Isthmia is a very similar miniature lamp with the same shape and same dull brown glaze on buff pottery. Broneer identifies it as, "probably a local [Athens] product." Broneer also writes, "There are no close parallels from the Athenian Agora. See Corinth IV, ii, p. 137, fig 61, which, however is later, as shown by the longer nozzle" On later examples of this type, the nozzle is long enough that the wick hole does not extend into the shoulder or discus.
AH21462. Broneer Isthmia type IV, 59 (very similar), cf. Corinth IV 61 (longer nozzle, later), Getty Museum 7 (same, pink clay, S. Italy), Choice, complete and intact, much of brown slip lost (visible in photo), 2.8 cm (1 1/8") high, 5.8 cm (2 1/4") long; wheel-turned, partial dull brown slip on slightly pink buff pottery, round, deep, flat bottomed bowl with sides narrowing slightly to a groove setting off a low round disc base, slightly concave discus, no handle, small short projecting nozzle with wick hole extending into the discus, large fill hole; ex Edgar L. Owen; $160.00 SALE |PRICE| $144.00
 


Roman Palestina or Arabia, Nabataean Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 225 - 300 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Roman| |Palestina| |or| |Arabia,| |Nabataean| |Pottery| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |225| |-| |300| |A.D.|,
This lamp came to us in a group accumulated in Israel. The four Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta, with their associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes linking them to the Mediterranean are in the Negev Desert, southern Israel today. In his, Nabataean Clay Lamps, an Analytical Study of Art and Myths, Nabil Khariy identifies lamps known from the Nabataean sites, especially Petra, which can be differentiated from Greek, Roman and Judaean parallels and identified specifically as Nabataean made. Khariy notes that although the Nabataeans lost their independence in 106 A.D., excavations clearly show aspects of Nabataean culture continued until late in the 6th century A.D. Khariy 66, similar to this lamp, is described as made with a local clay and cruder than similar lamps from non-Nabataean sites. Grawehr type J3, like this lamp, has a larger filling hole than most similar lamps. The larger filling hole is found on late examples of the type.
AL93928. Nabatean Oil Lamp; cf. Khariy 66; Grawehr J3 (Petra, 225-300 A.D.) Murray-Ellis p. 26, 16 (Petra, ND); Negev-Sivan p. 117, 129 (Mampsis, 75-200 A.D.), Choice, complete and intact, interesting root marks in the bottom of the interior, c. 225 - 300 A.D.; buff clay, round body, small rounded nozzle, small knob handle, defined ridge separating shoulders from plain concave discus, 16 stamped rosettes impressed around shoulders, very low ring base; $160.00 SALE |PRICE| $144.00
 


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), "Elongated" Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 400 - 620 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Late| |Roman| |-| |Byzantine,| |Holyland| |(Syro-Palestinian),| |"Elongated"| |Pottery| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |400| |-| |620| |A.D.|,
This type is identified by Adler as a Transjordan elongated lamp. Adler writes that the shoulders are narrow and ornamented with a wide variety of motifs including linear bands, geometric, and floral designs; the handle is tongue shaped projecting horizontally and decorated with three or more bands; the nozzle is decorated with geometric or floral designs or rarely a cross. The type is found in the northern part of Transjordan, and in Israel, mainly in northern Israel and the Beit Shean area. They date to the fifth and sixth century but possibly also the beginning of the seventh century. In the Hellenistic and Roman eras Beit Shean was the Decapolis city Scythopolis. Click the photo on the right of the ancient ruins at Beit Shean, to learn more about the city. Scythopolis
AL93937. Transjordan elongated lamp; Adler type JOR.1, cf. 971 (slightly larger, very similar ornamentation); 8.9 cm (3 1/2") long, Choice, complete and intact, c. 400 - 600/620 A.D.; pink clay, mold made, elongated body, tongue shaped handle rising diagonally ornamented with three vertical bands, double rim around large filling hole, radiating bands on convex shoulders, dots and lines (grapes on vine) on nozzle; $150.00 SALE |PRICE| $135.00
 




  



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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 Monday, February 24, 2020.
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Oil Lamps