The first terracotta oil lamps appeared in the Near East around the late 3rd Millennium B.C. They were handmade and presented a squared shape with pinched corners. Wheel-made, hence easier to produce, they soon prevailed and lasted for about two thousand years with little changes to their shapes. Originally called a ‘lychnus’, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, oil lamps were mass produced during the Roman era, becoming almost unparalleled in their distribution throughout the Empire. The vast trade networks set with the expansion of the Roman Empire allowed this item to be spread across Europe, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa, which led to the development of several provincial variations.
Bronze Age Terracotta Oil Lamp
A Bronze Age pale terracotta oil lamp in the shape of a slightly concave basin. The vessel is pinched at four corners into narrow open spouts. The body tapers into a slightly thicker, broad base which is lightly convex. This oil lamp is said to have been discovered near Sur Baher, a Palestinian neighbourhood located on the south-eastern outskirts of East Jerusalem.
Period: Middle Bronze Age.
Provenance: Formerly in the Ibrahim Kara’in collection, Jerusalem, 1985.
Condition: Fine, a crack at the base has been repaired. Some weathering and earthy encrustations remain on the surface.
|Dimensions||L 16 x W 14.5 cm|
Near East (Western Asiatic)