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.