Oil lamps were originally called ‘lychnus’, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, with the oldest Roman lamps dating back to the 3rd century BC. 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. During the fourth and fifth century AD, North Africa started to produce oil lamps from red slip, much like this fine example, with large discus areas which allowed for numerous designs.
The makers mark on the reverse of this lamp refers to a workshop with a prolific Italic distribution, with branches in North Africa. From similar examples found elsewhere, we can date this example quite specifically, to the Late Flavian to Early Antonine period, AD 80-140.
To discover more about oil lamps in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.