Byzantine Multi-nozzle Terracotta Oil Lamp

£ 200.00

A finely crafted Byzantine multi-nozzle terracotta oil lamp from Busra, in present-day Syria. It bears a unique design rare for ancient oil lamps, shaped like a stilted arch. Geometric relief decoration covers the body of the lamp, including a zigzag patterned frieze along the sloping sides and a pattern of twisted lines at the front. Raised lines surround the large central filling hole and three smaller nozzles on the straight side, set in arcades. A small tongue handle is placed at the top and an arch-shaped ridge on the base allows the oil lamp to sit.

Date: Circa 6th Century AD
Provenance: Previously in a Syrian collection, purchased from Georges Dahdah, Damascus, 1983.
Condition: Small stable crack along side of the body; minor earthly deposits.


Product Code: BS-35
Category: Tag:

In Antiquity, a lamp was originally called a lychnus, from the Greek λυχνος, with the oldest Roman lamps dating back to the third century BC. It is thought that the Romans took the idea for lamps from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. Closed oil lamps like this one enabled an oil-soaked wick to burn for an extended period of time with minimal smoke production. Multiple nozzles allowed for the insertion of numerous wicks simultaneously, and thus a brighter light source. This particular arch-shaped, multi-nozzle oil lamp is a unique design whose comparative examples seem to originate in the Eastern provinces of the Roman or Byzantine empires.

To discover more about the ancient origins of oil lamps, visit our relevant post: Oil Lamps in Antiquity.

Dimensions L 8 x H 4.3 cm

Southern Europe



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