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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.

Hellenistic Greek, Levant (Jerash, Jordan?), Terracotta Sunburst Lamp, c. 150 - 30 B.C.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Hellenistic| |Greek,| |Levant| |(Jerash,| |Jordan?),| |Terracotta| |Sunburst| |Lamp,| |c.| |150| |-| |30| |B.C.|
The Hellenistic sunburst design was meant to suggests the lamp is a little sun. Most similar published specimens have a small side lug (handle). This simpler type without a side lug is reputedly found mostly or entirely within areas once ruled by the Hasmonean Kingdom (Maccabees). It was apparently a smaller production and made for local use.

Jerash was ruled by the Hasmonean Kingdom from 99 - 63 B.C. after which it became part of the Roman province of Syria. The historian Josephus mentions the city as being principally inhabited by Syrians, but also having a small Jewish community. Roman era lamps made in Jerash are known for their "signature" red slip carelessly splashed on the upper half. FORVM received this lamp in a group that included several of the Jerash "Daroma" type oil lamps with the red slip. There are traces of that same color slip on the top of this lamp.
AL93900. Kennedy Type 2, cf. Adler 44 (lug on right shoulder), Warschaw 18 (decoration on nozzle), 8.7 cm (3 3/8") long, Choice, complete and intact, surface crack on bottom, slip worn, light encrustations, soot on nozzle, mold-made, orange clay, traces of red slip on top, round biconvex body, sunburst design on the shoulders around the fill hole, no discus, long tapering round tipped nozzle; $140.00 (133.00)

Roman, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Terracotta Disk Lamp, 150 - 300 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Roman,| |Holyland| |(Syro-Palestinian),| |Terracotta| |Disk| |Lamp,| |150| |-| |300| |A.D.|
The disk lamp, widely copied and produced in abundance, spread everywhere across the Roman Empire, starting from the second half of the 1st century A.D., throughout the 2nd century, and continuing into the 3rd century A.D. The popular acceptance of Roman lamps by Jews probably presented a problem for conservative Jews who remained suspicious of all things Roman. This likely accounts for the statement in the Mishnah that the Palestinian Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (active around 80 - 120 A.D.) held that a lamp's filling-hole should be large enough for a small coin to drop through it. Roman lamps usually had a decorated discus and small filling-hole. The plain discus on many of these lamps produced in the Levant may have been an attempt by manufacturers to avoid offending conservative Jewish clients, who broke the discus to make a larger hole.
AL93939. Kennedy Type 5, cf. Warschaw 45 - 47 (incised decoration), Adler Type 3.5/R.2 (decorated); 8.1 cm (3 3/16") long, Choice, complete and intact, encrustation, red clay, buff slip, mold made, round disk body, small short rounded nozzle, no handle, concave discus with small offset filling hole, coarse finishing, undecorated; $100.00 (95.00)

Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Bi-Lanceolate Pottery Oil Lamp, c. 270 - 500 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Late| |Roman| |-| |Byzantine,| |Holyland| |(Syro-Palestinian),| |Bi-Lanceolate| |Pottery| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |270| |-| |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. Sussman lists more than a dozen very similar lamps, most found at Beit Shean, and she dates them to the late third and fourth centuries. At this time,, Beit Shean, was primarily Christian, but evidence of Jewish habitation and a Samaritan synagogue indicate established minority communities. 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; Sussman Late 3125- 3136; 8.0 cm (3 1/8") long, near Choice, complete and intact, encrustation, wear, soot on nozzle, c. 270 - 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; $80.00 (76.00)

De l'archologie l'histoire, Lampes antiques du Bilad es Sham : Jordanie, Syrie, Liban, Palestine

|Oil| |Lamps|, |De| |l'archologie| || |l'histoire,| |Lampes| |antiques| |du| |Bilad| |es| |Sham| |:| |Jordanie,| |Syrie,| |Liban,| |Palestine|
The colloquium that took place in the autumn of 2005 both in Amman and in the sumptuous site of Petra had the objective of bringing together researchers from more than thirty countries, with the theme of "ancient lamps" of the Middle East, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. From an archaeological point of view, it was an unprecedented initiative: to bring together the best specialists of the region by asking them to attach themselves to a common but often neglected type of material, in order to present the most recent results of their research, both the lamps themselves and the contexts in which they had been discovered (stratigraphy, ceramic types, various dating, etc.).
BK21972. De l'archologie l'histoire, Lampes antiques du Bilad es Sham, 2011, in French, 435 pages, soft cover, new in original packaging, international shipping at actual cost of shipping; $90.00 SALE PRICE $30.00

Die Lampen aus den romischen Topfereien von Frankfurt am Main-Nied

|Antiquities| |Books|, |Die| |Lampen| |aus| |den| |romischen| |Topfereien| |von| |Frankfurt| |am| |Main-Nied|NEW
This work offers a study on the model types of lamps of Roman pottery from the Frankfurt-Nied museum, with dating as well as an evaluation on the signature pieces of this group of artifacts, whose main area of distribution was in the Rhine-Main region. An analysis of the clay proves that the factory lamps as well as the various red-painted lamps in the Wetterauer wares collection originated from a collaborative workshop.
BK21975. Die Lampen aus den romischen Topfereien von Frankfurt am Main-Nied by Ingeborg Huld-Zetsche, 2014, hardcover, new in original packing, international shipping at cost, priced far below FORVM's cost!; $45.00 SALE PRICE $30.00



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).
Bussire, J. & B. Wohl. Ancient Lamps in the J. Paul Getty Museum. (Los Angeles, 2017).
Djuric, S. The Anawati Collection, Ancient Lamps From the Mediterranean. (Toronto, 1995).
Ennabli, A. Lampes chrtiennes de Tunisie (Muse du Bardo et de Carthage). (Paris, 1976).
Frecer, R. Gerulata: The Lamps, A Survey of Roman Lamps in Pannonia. (Prague, 2014).
Goethert, K. Rmische 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 Archologie, Art et histoire, 1989.
Kennedy, C. "The Development of the Lamp in Palestine" in Berytus Archaeological Studies 14 (Beirut, 1963), pp. 67-115.
Lyon-Caen, C. & V. Hoff. Catalogue des Lampes en terre cuite Grecques et Chretiennes. Musee du Louvre. (Paris, 1986).
Menzel, H. Antike Lampen im Rmisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum zu Mainz. (Mainz, 1954).
Mlasowsky, A. Die antiken Tonlampen im Kestner-Museum Hannover. (Hannover, 1993).
Osborne, A. Lychnos et Lucema. Catalogue raisonn d'une collection de lampes en terre cuite trouves 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).
Schfer, 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. "Lamps - mirror of the sea" in Sefunim (Bulletin) of the National Maritime Museum Haifa, 8, 1994, pp. 80-100.
Sussman, V. Late Roman to Late Byzantine/Early Islamic Period Lamps in the Holy Land: The Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Oxford, 2017).
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).
Stanislau, L. Light and Life: Ancient Christian Oil Lamps of the Holyland. (Jerusalem, 2001).
Szentlleky, 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.

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