Holy Land Terracotta Oil Lamp


An Holy Land terracotta oil lamp featuring a pointed oval body and a prominent conical handle. To the top, the vessel displays a large filling-hole with a pronounced rim. This is surrounded by an additional ridge which extends onto the nozzle and around the wick-hole, forming a straight channel decorated with a linear pattern, possibly a palm branch, in relief. The shoulders are richly decorated with a symmetrical pattern of running animals, in a ‘horror vacui’ fashion typical of Early Islamic lamps. ‘Horror vacui’ translates loosely from latin as a fear of empty spaces. The animals depicted on this lamp appear to be running dogs, with their long tails and pointed muzzle. The reverse remains unadorned, with the exception of a circular base ring forming an eight-spoked wheel. The lamp is un-slipped.The handle of the lamp is in the conical form and a small motif can be observed between both holes.

Date: 7th - 8th century AD
Condition: Fine. Black soot deposits can be observed around the wick hole. Stand not included.


SKU: JLS-7 Category: Tags: ,

Holy Land, 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, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.

Weight 117.2 g
Dimensions L 8.8 x W 7.7 cm


Pottery and Porcelain


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