Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Africa


An Ancient Roman terracotta oil lamp, with a richly decorated discus and ring handle. The lamp features a rounded nozzle and smooth, undecorated shoulders. A circular groove separates the shoulders from the discus. On the discus is the personification of Africa. We see a frontal view of her bust, depicting her distinctive headdress of elephant trunk and tusks. There is a large filling hole on the discus, to the central left. The base is smooth, marked off with one circular groove and the maker’s signature. This oil lamp seems to fit into the classifications Loeschke VIII, or Bussière form D II.

Date: Circa 1st - 2nd century AD
Provenance: From a specialist collection of Roman oil lamps formed by Robertson Brockie (deceased), all acquired before 2008 from a central London ADA gallery; Southport Lancashire.
Condition: Very fine condition. There are some very minor earthly encrustations, and a minor chip to the lower left of the discus – see photos for further clarification.

In stock

SKU: AH-1091 Category: Tags: ,

The Roman oil lamp, originally called a ‘lychnus’, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, has been almost unparalleled in its distribution throughout the Empire. First developed towards the end of the Hellenistic period, oil lamps were to keep their general shape longer than any other item of pottery throughout the Mediterranean. 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.

Upon the reverse, the letters of Maker’s mark can be seen NOVIVS T. This refers to the tripartite name of the Justus family, M. Novius Justus, who were a prominent family of lamp-makers in the 1st and 2nd centuries. Large numbers of lamps bearing this signature have been found in North Africa, with the workshop believed to have been situated in El Djem, Tunisia. Maker’s marks and stamps decline in use from the third quarter of the 2nd century. Lamps themselves also tend to be inferior in quality compared to their 1st century counterparts, so a signature of pride seemed unnecessary.

To discover more about oil lamps in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.

Dimensions L 10.3 x W 7.3 x H 4.1 cm



Pottery and Porcelain

Reference: For a similar item see The J. Paul Getty Museum, Item Number 83.AQ.377.535

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