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.
This type of lamp is known as Loeschcke VIII (Bussiére form D II 1), of which had many variants but generally characterized by a circular body and a short, rounded nozzle. Based on the nozzle type we can further identify it as Bussiére form 4a, due to the inclusion of a straight line and two flanking dots seperating the discus and nozzle. Lamps of this type were popular from the end of 1st century AD and spread all over the Roman Empire.
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, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.