Selection of Late Hellenistic Oil Lamps from Cnidus

A selection of three Late Hellenistic oil lamps moulded from grey clay. The round base and hollow body of these lamps were formed in one piece, with the handle and spout crafted separately and attached. A recessed circle encloses the small central filling hole. The wide nozzles end with a curve, and feature two small barbs on either side of the wick hole. These barbs are mirrored by the two curling points where the handles meet the body of the lamp. The ribbon handles themselves are finely modelled, with a median groove and horizontal cross piece, as though two thin strands have been brought together to form the loop.

Date: 150 - 100 BC
Provenance: Ex David William Akherst Collection by descent, joining the British Museum in 1948 in the Greek and Roman Antiquities Department moving to be Chief Conservation Officer of Glass and Ceramics until retirement in 1982
Condition: Fine condition. Some earthly encrustation to the surface.
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SKU: BL-12 Category:

Cnidus was a Hellenic city in ancient Caria, and one of the six cities in the Dorian Hexapolis federation in south-western Asia-Minor (present-day Turkey). Many of the ancient walls remain in good condition, and Praxiteles’ famous Aphrodite of Cnidus was produced for the temple here.

It is during the Hellenistic period that we see the transition from wheel-made lamps to mould-made lamps, and from open top to closed lamps featuring a filling hole. The elongated nozzle with a flat top and the volute side lug are both particular characteristics of Hellenistic period lamps. With the new methods of creating oil lamps came new approaches to their decoration and designs of both decorative and symbolic nature become more common. The old fashion of decorating with ornamentation or drawings was replaced by the new form of decorations in relief, created either by stamping or engraving.

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

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Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar item: The British Museum, London, item 1926-0216-29

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