Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Roman Lamp Edition.

I warn in advance that this will be a fairly lazy edition of FAB, but it will have lots and lots of pretty pictures. Some of the pictures can be clicked on to get a bigger version. Anyway, Roman lamps! Generally made of either terracotta or bronze, they were usually fueled by olive oil (which must have smelled just lovely, but anyway...). The fuel was inserted into the reservoir through a hole in the top of the lamp, and an oil-soaked wick ran from the reservoir to the main opening in the nozzle, where the actual flame burned.


A Roman lamp doing its thing

The main point of interest in dealing with roman lamps is in looking at the artwork. While many lamps were relatively plain affairs,


Late Roman lamp

others were extremely highly decorated.


A couple of decorated lamps

Typical scenes on Roman lamps included gladiatorial combat,


Lamp depicting a victorious gladiator and his opponent, from the reign of Augustus


real-life animals,


A 2nd-century A.D. lamp depicting a cockerel

mythical animals,


Pegasus depicted on a Roman lamp

religious scenes,


A lamp depicting Lilith. The hand stamped on the bottom of the lamp is a maker's mark.




An early Christian lamp showing the Chi-Rho symbol


and, erm, "recreational activities."


Move along, nothing to see here!


Sometimes, these elements could be combined in amusing ways.


Lamp showing a scene from "The Golden Ass" by Apuleius.

In shape, lamps typically took the form shown above, with a small vertical handle, a round oil reservoir, and one nozzle. However, lamps were also made with more than one nozzle,


A gold(!) lamp with two nozzles


or in bizarre and fantastic shapes.


A Roman lamp in the shape of a foot.

There are many many more pictures of Roman lamps I could hurl up here, but this will do for now, as it gives a basic overview of the types of lamps that were out there. And, as promised, lots of pictures! Something more "substantial" next week.

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