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. 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, popular myths, and domestic animals. A lamp with more than two nozzles was called a polymyxus. The number of nozzles was not limited but vast quantities found only have one, making this nice example a rare find.
This lamp is similar to examples found at both Beit Nattif and from Khirbet el Ni’ana (also known as Al-Na’ani). The difference largely between examples found at the two sites was iconography, with those found at el Ni’ana showcasing globular patterns. Locally made, these lamps used a smaller repertoire of decorative elements, compared to the Beit Nattif lamps which were often decorated with opulent arched elements and Judaean symbolism.
To discover more about oil lamps in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.