A Roman mould-made terracotta oil lamp featuring a short canal nozzle with volutes, a decorated concave discus, and two filling holes. The discus of the lamp is decorated with a hunting scene, which shows a dog attacking a dear, both of whom are running to the right. Two concentric circles surround the scene. The lamp is marked to the underside, however the maker’s name is no longer legible.
Date: Circa 1st-2nd century AD Condition: Very fine, completely intact with signs of ageing on the surface.
At Rome, a lamp was originally called a ‘lychnus‘, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, with the oldest Roman lamps dating back to the third century BC. It is thought that the Romans took the idea for lamps from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. 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), common myths, and animals. Pottery oil lamps could be made in three different ways: handmade, wheel made, or by mould. The use of the mould (which was made from clay or plaster) quickly became popular, because one mould could produce several lamps.
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