Hellenistic Ptolemaic Period Red Slip Oil Lamp


A Hellenistic period mould-made oil lamp, made from terracotta covered in a red-orange slip and produced in Ptolemaic Egypt. The lamp features a double-convex circular body which leads to a long, tapering, round-ended nozzle with slight angles at the junction with the body. The filling hole is marked by an inward sloping band surrounded by an outer groove. There is a solid pointed lug to the left side of the body. The circular base is slightly raised and concave towards the centre. The lamp exhibits some blackening around the nozzle from use.

Date: Circa late 3rd century – early 2nd century BC
Period: Ptolemaic Period
Provenance: Ex PA private collection, London, acquired in 1980s.
Condition: Fine condition. Some loss of slip and minor chips along with earthly encrustations to the surface. Blackening to the nozzle from use in antiquity. Old collection sticker to base.


SKU: CY-158 Category: Tag:

This particular shaped oil lamp can be characterised generally as Mlynarczyk Type A (Ref: Alexandrian and Alexandria-Influenced Mould-Made Lamps of the Hellenistic Period – By Jolanta Mlynarczyk). The type is identified by its double-convex body, conical nozzle with rounded end, concave rim to filling hole surrounded by a groove, and single side lug. Lamps of this type were one of the early types of Egyptian mould-made lamps, believed to be inspired by Rhodian wheel-made lamps of Howland type 32 (Ref: The Athenian Agora: Results Of Excavations Conducted By The American School Of Classical Studies At Athens, Volume Iv, Greek Lamps And Their Survivals – By Richard Hubbard Howland) during the Hellenistic period.

Mould-made lamps were preceded by wheel-made lamps, and did not start appearing until the beginning of the 3rd century BC. This new method allowed for mass reproduction of oil lamps, as well as greater versatility in their size, shape, and decoration. Mould-made Ptolemaic lamps, such as this, would have been a forerunner for Roman oil lamps. They would have likely have been made in the Nile Delta. The familiarity of making items from moulds, such as faience amulets, and the readily-available plaster would have allowed potters and lamp makers to easily transition from wheel-made lamps.

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

Weight 62.4 g
Dimensions L 8.2 x W 5.8 x H 2.6 cm


Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar item,Royal Ontario Museum, item 916.1.97

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