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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.


Judean, "Daroma" Terracotta Lamp, 1st Century - First Half of 2nd Century A.D.

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“And you shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive-oil for the light, that a lamp may be set to burn continually.” Exodus 27:20.

Adler writes, "The decorations testify that these lamps were manufactured and used by Jews." An olive spray, the source of the lamp fuel, ornaments the top of this lamp.

Adler also notes the site of the workshop or workshops for this group is uncertain but "it seems certain they were made in one location because of their common features."
AL34113. Jewish Terracotta Lamp, cf. Adler group 3.3.D.5, no. 325; Warschaw 107 -108, Superb; 9.5 cm (3 3/4"), finely made, ring handle, flat discus with olive branch ornamentation on shoulder, lily on volute nozzle; very attractive; SOLD


Early Christian, Late Roman, Antioch, Syria, Pottery Oil Lamp, 5th - 6th Century A.D.

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AL34421. Christian oil lamp; cf. Anawati C275 (very similar but different discus/shoulder ornamentation); 10.2 cm (4") long, Choice - Superb, buff with red-orange slip, flat high-handle ornamented with cross inside round border of a band of dots between concentric circles, steep shoulders, ridge around discus and nozzle forming channel, geometric dot in crescent design on shoulders; very rare; SOLD


Early Christian, Late Roman, Antioch, Syria, Pottery Oil Lamp, 5th Century A.D.

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AL34422. Christian oil lamp; cf. Warschaw 479 - 480, Anawati 296, Superb, 7.5 cm (3") long; buff terracotta, pointed handle, ridge around discus and nozzle forming channel, wreath design on shoulders, cross fourchée in nozzle channel; very attractive; rare; SOLD


Christian, Late Roman - Early Byzantine, Antioch, Syria, Pottery Oil Lamp, Second Half of 4th - 5th Century A.D.

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V. Tzaferis has shown that depiction of the cross, in any form, began in the middle of the 4th century. This lamp is among the earliest examples of the cross used as a Christian symbol.

Lamps with similar ornamentation, but quite different in overall and obviously from a different workshop (Palestinian), were found in a tomb at Ein Yabrud (central West Bank, 7 km northeast of Ramallah) with a gold coin of Constantine.

AL34544. Christian oil lamp; 7.9 cm (3") long; cf. Adler 907 and Schloessinger 453 ff. (Ein Yabrud, different shape, etc. but certainly same period), Choice, buff terracotta, piriform shape, cross on nozzle with single raised band above, tongue handle, double molding around fill hole, radial design on shoulder, sharp carination with slight rim, raised base ring; rare; SOLD


Judean, "Daroma" Terracotta Lamp, 1st Century - First Half of 2nd Century A.D.

Click for a larger photo
“And you shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive-oil for the light, that a lamp may be set to burn continually.” Exodus 27:20.

Adler writes, "The decorations testify that these lamps were manufactured and used by Jews." An olive spray, the source of the lamp fuel, ornaments the top of this lamp.

Adler also notes the site of the workshop or workshops for this group is uncertain but "it seems certain they were made in one location because of their common features."

AL34112. Jewish Terracotta Lamp, cf. Adler group 3.3.D.5, no. 325; Warschaw 107 -108, Superb; 10 cm (4") long, finely made, ring handle, flat discus with olive wreath ornamentation on shoulder, schematic inverted lily? design on volute nozzle; very attractive, small shallow chip on nozzle; SOLD


Late Roman - Early Byzantine, Antioch, Syria, Pottery Oil Lamp, 5th - 6th Century A.D.

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The Warschaw Collection (Israel Museum, Jerusalem) lamp referenced has a male head and is a different shape but, like or lamp, the back of the head is on the reverse of the handle. In addition, the Warschaw lamp has the same type of decoration on the base. The two lamps are perhaps from the same Antiochian workshop.

Describing a similar lamp, the Nakayama Collection website notes, "It is said, but not proven, that it depicts the face of the Virgin Mary."
AL34531. High-handle oil lamp; cf. Anawati C270, Warschaw 474 (male head), Choice, 10.8 cm (4 1/4") long; red clay with white slip, mold made, high handle decorated with facing female head wearing earrings, back of head with long hair on the reverse side of the handle, bottom ornamented with four pellets in circles; SOLD


Late Roman, Holyland (Syro-Palestinian), Christian Cross Oil Lamp, c. 350 - 500 A.D.

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An important early Christian relic! Because of the cross, this type of lamp is dated after 350 A.D. The cross was only adopted as a Christian symbol after Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, found the True Cross in Jerusalem. The cross on this lamp is among the earliest Christian crosses produced. Similar lamps were made with a palm or menorah on the nozzle for the makers' Jewish customers. Both types were continued to be produced after 500 A.D. but the later lamps are larger.
AL93886. Small Christian Cross Oil Lamp; cf. Menzel 655, Schloessinger 453 ff., Bailey BMC -; 8.2 cm (3 1/3") long, Choice, complete and intact, minor bumps, minor earthen encrustations (visible in photos), c. 350 - 500 A.D.; pink-buff light clay, tear drop shape from above, no handle, decorative radiating pattern, cross on the nozzle, ring base; SOLD


Roman, Bronze (Lamp?) Chain, 1st - 2nd Century A.D.

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Ex Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia, Rome de-acquisition, c. 1950’s; ex Ran Ryan, Rome 1974; from the collection of Alex G. Malloy. Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia was founded in 1889 in the Villa Giulia, or Villa di Papa Giulio (Pope Julius), built in Rome in the mid-16th century for Pope Julius III. Today the museum is principally devoted to antiquities of the pre-Roman period, from ancient Umbria, Latium, and southern Etruria. In the 1950's the museum sold some of its later Roman antiquities to Rex Ryan, an antiquities dealer who had a shop in Rome. Alex Malloy, a retired dealer in antiquities for 40 years, purchased a group of these antiquities, including this piece, from Rex Ryan, in 1974.
AI36102. Bronze (lamp?) chain; 14 ½ inches long; with two larger rings of single connecting loops, green patina; probably used to suspend a hanging oil lamp, Choice, SOLD


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

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This type is identified by Adler as a Transjordan elongated lamp. Adler writes that this type is usually decorated with geometric designs and rarely with a cross on the nozzle. 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. At this time, Beit Shean, was primarily Christian, as attested to by the large number of churches including a rotunda church on top of the Tell. Evidence of Jewish habitation and a Samaritan synagogue indicate established minority communities. Click the photo on the right of the Roman ruins at Beit Shean, to learn more about the city. Scythopolis

AL93894. Transjordan elongated lamp; Adler type JOR.1, cf. 967 ff. (none with cross); 8.9 cm (3 1/2") long, near Choice, minor cracks, hole in bottom (visible in photos), 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; SOLD


Ancient Israel, Four-Wick Saucer Oil Lamp, Middle Bronze Age, c. 2200 - 1550 B.C.

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According to tradition, Abraham was born in 2166 B.C. and traveled to Cannan in 2019 B.C.

This four-pinch or four wick type is the earliest type of oil lamp, made as early as 2200 B.C. The type was still made in the Middle Bronze Age to about 1550 B.C. By the end of that period, most lamps had only one pinch for only one wick.
AH21499. Four-wick oil lamp; Sussman p. 27, 3.19:5; Amiran pl. 59, 1; Adler 1.1.3; Schloessinger 311; Anawati -; 10.1 cm (4") long, 2.5 cm (1"), Choice, complete, intact, earthen deposits, Hebrew ink markings on bottom, Middle Bronze Age, c. 2200 - 1550 B.C.; pottery, coarse pinkish-buff clay, wheel made saucer, rim pushed inward on four sides, creating a squared form with a channels in each corner for a wick, slightly convex flat bottom, ex Alex G. Malloy; scarce; ON LAYAWAY




  




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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 Friday, December 13, 2019.
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Oil Lamps