Roman North African Oil Lamp

£ 395.00

A beautifully rendered Ancient Roman bright red terracotta oil lamp, featuring a long canal nozzle, a slightly concave discus with two filling holes, and a single moulded handle. The lamp’s shoulders are finely decorated with a fish motif arranged in a band running along the two sides of the discus, where the moulded depiction of an intricate fish, detailed with scales and fins can be seen between the two filling holes. The lamp is a fine example of the so-called lamps in Terra Sigillata Africana (TSA), and was moulded in the Roman provinces of North Africa, modern day central Tunisia. The lamp can be classified as type Atlante X, Hayes II A. The reverse features moulded, concentric circles.

Date: Circa 4th – 6th century AD.
Provenance: From a private Preston, Lancashire collection, RB, who amassed a collection of over 200 lamps, the majority acquired via a London A.D.A. member gallery.
Condition: Very fine, minor chips to the body. Blackening around which hole.


Product Code: RES-184
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. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. 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. This particular variation, Terra Sigillata Africana, is native to the Roman province comprising present-day central Tunisia, but was broadly exported and then imitated all over the Roman Empire. The depiction of fish indicates a Christian connotation. The fish, known as Ichthys, was used from the 2nd century AD and became a wide-spread motif during the 3rd and 4th centuries. Ichthys, or ΙΧΘΥC in Greek, stood for ‘Jesus Christ, son of God, Saviour’ (Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υιός, Ζωτήρ). The acronym is made up of each first letter of the phrase, which was the basis of Christian belief and ideology. Fundamentally, it declares Jesus Christ had two natures, human and divine.

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

Dimensions L 13.5 x W 8 cm

North Africa



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