Ancient Roman Terra Sigillata North African Oil Lamp with Hunting Scene


An Ancient Roman oil lamp displaying the characteristic red slip of North African terra sigillata. The vessel features a long canal nozzle and a rounded body. To the top, the discus is decorated with a small palmette, flanked by two rampant animals: a hound to the right and a deer to the left, perhaps depicting a hunting scene. The shoulders, acting as a decorative border for the scene, feature a neatly drawn geometric pattern comprising concentric circles and triangles. A lug handle extends outwards to the rear of the lamp for holding. The reverse presents a short circular base, centred by two concentric grooves.

Date: Circa mid 5th - mid 6th century AD
Provenance: Ex S.M. Collection, London, Mayfair, acquired 1970s-90s.
Condition: Fine condition; a minor crack at the back of the handle and base ring. Sings of repair to the base.


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. This oil lamp falls under the so-called ‘Christian lamps’, Atlante X; Hayes IIA type, which holds characteristics from central Tunisia, one being the neatly drawn motives around the shoulder. Initially produced in Tunisia only, these oil lamps were broadly exported throughout the empire for about three centuries.

Weight 137.6 g
Dimensions L 14 x W 8.5 x H 4.5 cm


Pottery and Porcelain

Reference: For a similar Atlante X, Hayes IIA oil lamp type, please see The Metropolitan Museum, item 74.51.2039

You may also like…