Roman Oil Lamp with Staurogram

£ 500.00

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 geometric motives, while the discus holds the moulded depiction of the Christian symbol known as staurogram, which combines the two Greek letters Tau and Rho. The lamp is a fine example of the so-called Christian 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 the collection of Arno Jumpertz, Leverkusen, Germany, 1924-1984. Much of the collection was exhibited at the Neus Museum, 1985.
Condition: Repaired. Chips to the handle and nozzle.


Product Code: RES-112
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. Over time, the manufacture of lamps increased, and so did the variation in decoration, which depended mainly on the shape and size of the lamp. Common decorative themes depicted on the discus were entertainment scenes, such as gladiators in combat, popular myths, and domestic animals. Early Christian symbols, such as the staurogram, were also used as decorative motives, usually together with depictions of palmettes, palms’ or olives’ branches. The staurogram, combines the Greek letters Tau and Rho and was used originally as an abbreviation for ‘cross’, known in Greek as ‘stauros’(σταυρός).However, between the 4th and the 5th centuryAD, the meaning of the staurogram changed and it became, synecdochetically, a symbol of Christ and his sacrifice. Such symbols are called Christograms and were used as decorative motives by the early Christians. Oil lamps moulded in North Africa and referred to the type Atlante X, Hayes II A, are characterized by a fine clay, glossy bright orange slip, and finely executed decoration to the lamps’ discus and shoulders.

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

Dimensions L 11 cm



North Africa, Southern Europe

Christian Ideology


Reference: Reference: For a similar item, The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 83.AQ.377.270

You may also like…