Holy Land Terracotta Oil Lamp with Christ Handle


A finely crafted terracotta oil lamp from the Holy Land. The lamp features an elongated body moulded in the shape of a cross with a rounded nozzle. Raised circles, dots and lines decorate the body which have now faded over time. The handle displays the frontal portrait of Christ with a halo behind him. Three vertical lines feature along the back of the oil lamp from the handle to the ring foot base. Some light cracking can be seen across the body. Some residual soot can be seen from the burning of oils around the wick hole.

Date: 7th - 9th century AD
Provenance: Ex J R Mothersole collection of Holy Land artefacts, acquired 1940's-1990's.
Condition: Fine condition, slight flaking and crack to the base.


Early Holy Land oil lamps, such as this fine example, have mostly been recovered in Khirbet el-Mefjer, near Jericho. They appeared at the beginning of the 7th century AD and became widespread during the Umyyad period (7th – 8th century AD), although examples have been found dating to the 11th century AD. This particular type, with a conical handle, is the earlier version and reaches its popularity in the 8th century. The form and decoration show continuation from late Byzantine examples, fused with the emerging Islamic local styles. Running animals, ornate birds, geometric patterns and foliage were all common design themes and human representation is markedly absent. Inscriptions are also common and appear in both Greek and Arabic, showing the fusion of both Christian and Muslim iconography. The animals seen here are ambiguous. They appear horned, with elongated, feline-like bodies and long tails and most likely represent a mythical animal, which was common.

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

Weight 74.3 g
Dimensions L 9.3 x W 5.5 cm


Christian Ideology

Pottery and Porcelain