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Jewish "Candlestick" Lamps - Oil Lamps with a Menorah (Or Palm?)

By Joseph Sermarini


Menzel, H. Antike Lampen im Rmisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum zu Mainz. (Mainz, 1954), pp. 100 - 102, Abb. 82, 8 (large) - 9 (small)

The type is named for the ornamentation on the nozzle, branches issuing from a central ridge, often called a "candlestick," meaning it is a representation of the menorah. The most menorah-like variation has the "candlestick" on a tripod base (see AL78085 below). Sussman Late, p. 101, fig. 74 depicts different shapes of the candlestick menorah. 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, as seen below. 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. There are, however, examples of "candlestick" lamps with Greek inscriptions, that are clearly Christian. One inscription, for example, reads, "the light of Christ shines for all" and Magness suggests the simple rays may represent the "light of Christ."

The type is divided by size into two primary variants. The small lamps are c. 6.5 - 8 cm long, and date c. 350 - 500 A.D. The large lamps are c. 8.5 - 10.5 cm long and date c. 480 - 800. The larger lamps are two types, lamps with a radiated pattern and, rarer, inscribed lamps. Nitowski identifies seven varieties of inscribed lamps, and dates them from the early 5th to the early 8th century.

The type is mold-made, biconvex, and pear or tear drop shaped from above. The clay is most often buff or pink-buff, known in various shades of brown. Rosenthal and Silvan say the type is is always unslipped, but we have handled some small types that appear to have traces of a cream slip. The filling hole is often surrounded by a one or more raised rims. There wick hole also has a raised rim. They have a ring base. The handle is replaced by a raised globule, stroke, crescent, lis, circle, cross, or a combination of these marks. Sussman Late, p. 99, fig. 73 depicts different signs that mark the place of the handle. The shoulders are most commonly ornamented with raised radial lines. Rare examples, Sussman Late p. 100, fig 74, 5 - 7, are decorated with circles. The larger lamps are known with a variety of mostly Greek, but also Arabic, inscriptions. An index of the inscribed types in the Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority is included in Sussman Late on pp. 108 - 109.

The type is found across Israel but most commonly in Jerusalem and within 50 kilometers of Jerusalem. The larger candlestick lamp type was the most popular lamp type during the Byzantine period.


Shop for Ancient Oil Lamps at Forum Ancient Coins

References

Adler, N. Oil Lamps of the Holy Land from the Adler Collection. (Israel, 2004), pp. 147 - 151, types BYZ.1 (small) 905 - 921 & BYZ.2 (large), 922 - 940
Bailey, D. A Catalogue of the Lamps in the British Museum, Volume III: Roman Provincial Lamps. (London, 1988), pp. 287 - 288 & pl. 60, Q2330 - Q2336 (all large)
Israeli, Y. & U. Avida. Oil-Lamps from Eretz Israel - the Louis and Carmen Warschaw collection at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. (Jerusalem, 1988), p. 145 - 150 (some unusual types).
Lyon-Caen, C. & V. Hoff. Catalogue des Lampes en terre cuite Grecques et Chretiennes. Musée du Louvre. (Paris, 1986), pp. 132 - 133, 174 - 180
Magness, J. "Blessing from Jerusalem: Evidence for Early christian Pilgrimage" in Eretz Israel 25 (1996), pp. 37 - 45. Available Online
Menzel, H. Antike Lampen im Rmisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum zu Mainz. (Mainz, 1954), pp. 100 - 102, Abb. 82, 8 - 9 (scan above)
Nitowski, E. "Inscribed and Radiated-Type Byzantine Lamps" in Andrews University Seminary Studies 12 (1974), pp. 18 - 34. Available Online
Rosenthal, R. & R. Sivan. Ancient Lamps in the Schloessinger Collection. Qedem 8. (Jerusalem, 1978), pp. 112 - 124, 463 - 473 (small), 476 - 500 (large)
Sussman, V. Late Roman to Late Byzantine/Early Islamic Period Lamps in the Holy Land: The Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Oxford, 2017), pp. 571 - 577.


Byzantine, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Large "Candlestick" Oil Lamp, c. 480 - 800 A.D.

This is the most menorah-like variation with the "candlestick" on a "tripod" base.


AL78085. Large "Candlestick" Oil Lamp with "tripod" base; Adler type BYZ.2, cf. Adler 924; Sussman Late 1632; Bailey BMC II Q2332; Qedem 8 48, Superb, light deposits, soot on the nozzle, 10.0cm (4") long, 6.4cm (2 1/2") wide, 3.4cm (1 3/8") tall, c. 480 - 800 A.D.; pink-buff light clay, chalk inclusions, tear drop shape from above, no handle, double rim around filling hole, decorative radiating pattern around shoulder, nozzle ornamented with six branches curving upward and two downward from a central ridge (menorah with a tripod base?), ring base; ex Amphora Coins (David Hendin) with his photo-authenticity receipt (2 Feb 2018), noting, "A local oil lamp found in Israel, purchase by me in Jerusalem more than 20 years ago from a licensed dealer."


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


AL93936. Small "Candlestick" Oil Lamp; cf. Qedem 8 477; Menzel 657; Adler 905; Bailey BMC Q2300, Sussman Late 1679, Choice, complete and intact, light earthen encrustations (visible in photos); 7.9 cm (3 1/8") long, small earlier variety, c. 350 - 500 A.D.; mold made, pink-buff light clay, biconvex tear drop shape, pellet replacing 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


AL21763. Small "Candlestick" Oil Lamp; Adler type BYZ.1; cf. Qedem 8 477; Sussman Late 1553; Bailey BMC -, Choice, complete and intact, some bumps, light deposits; 8.0 cm (3 1/8") long, small earlier variety, c. 350 - 500 A.D.; mold made, pink-buff light clay, trace of a cream slip(?), biconvex tear drop shape, pellet replacing handle, double rim around filling hole with inner rim larger, decorative radiating pattern around shoulder continues on the nozzle with six branches from a central ridge (palm-menorah), ring base


AL21819. Small "Candlestick" Oil Lamp; Adler type BYZ.1; cf. Qedem 8 477; Sussman Late 1553; Bailey BMC -, Choice, complete and intact, much of slip lost, light bumps; 8.0 cm (3 1/8") long, small earlier variety, c. 350 - 500 A.D.; mold made, pink-buff light clay, trace of a cream slip(?), biconvex tear drop shape, pellet replacing handle, double rim around filling hole with inner rim larger, decorative radiating pattern around shoulder continues on the nozzle with six branches from a central ridge (palm-menorah), ring base


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

This is the smallest example of this type known to FORVM.



AA78095. Miniature "Candlestick" Oil Lamp; Adler type BYZ.1; Alder 905 (7.4cm); Qedem 8 477 (8cm); Sussman Late 1553 (7.7cm), Choice, complete and intact, mild wear, 6.6cm (2 5/8") long, 4.5cm (1 3/4") wide, 2.2cm (7/8") high, c. 350 - 500 A.D.; grey-buff light clay, chalk inclusions, 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


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