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. 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), common myths, and animals. Pottery oil lamps could be made in three different ways: handmade, wheel made, or by mould. The use of the mould (which was made from clay or plaster) quickly became popular, because one mould could produce several lamps. Oil lamps moulded in North Africa and referred to the type Atlante XI B, Hayes II A, are characterized by a fine clay, glossy bright orange slip, a long canal nozzle with flukes on each side, perhaps a reminiscence of volutes, and a closed discus, surrounded by a continuous shoulder-frame.
To discover more about the ancient origins of oil lamps, visit our relevant post: Oil Lamps in Antiquity.