Roman Terracotta North African Oil Lamp


A terracotta, North African, Roman oil lamp featuring an elongated oval body and a circular discuss. A raised ridge surrounds the discuss, which continues around the large nozzle hole to form a broad canal. A solid spike like handle, which is flattened on each side, sits at the top of the lamp. The base of the lamp is supported by a ring foot, joined to the handle, and known as a ‘patera’. The discuss, with two filling holes on either side, is decorated with the profile of lady, wearing a saccos headdress and an elaborate necklace. Her profile is surrounded by concentric geometric designs. The shoulder is also enriched with various motifs, including floral, circular and square designs. This oil lamp would have been made in a mold.

This oil lamp resembles Atlante type X; Hayes type IIA

Date: Circa 4th - 6th century AD
Provenance: Ex S.M collection, Herzliyah, Isreal.
Condition: Excellent condition. Clear detailing. Small chip to the nozzle.

In stock

Oil lamps were originally called ‘lychnus’, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, with the oldest Roman lamps dating back to the 3rd century BC. 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. During the fourth and fifth century AD, North Africa started to produce oil lamps from red slip, much like this fine example, with large discus areas which allowed for numerous designs. This oil lamp falls under Atlante X; Hayes IIA type, which holds characteristics from central Tunisia, largely the vibrant, glossy colour of the terracotta. Initially produced in Tunisia only, these oil lamps were broadly exported throughout the empire for about three centuries.

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

Weight 188.9 g
Dimensions L 14 x W 8.3 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For similar: Bonhams Auction House, London, Antiquities, 28th October 2004, lot 297

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