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Section: Ancient Lamps
Page 11 of 14Last updated: 12 April 2008

On Terra-cotta Lamps
On Terra-cotta Lamps

An Edwardian Article - from the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, December 10, 1906.

Robert Coltman Clephan, FSA Scot.

Museum, though chiefly of the commoner sorts, and among the subjects are—five fishermen fishing in a harbour; a goatherd; Victory, with shield; pieces of armour; a savage clad in skins, brandishing a tree branch; and there are the usual mythological and legendary themes. The handle of one example is formed as a bust of Serapis, with the modius, a measure of com or fruit,[2] on his head. The lamp (lucerna polylychnis) has seven nozzles, and is reproduced from a drawing on fig. 10. A fine specimen in this collection exhibits as subject a race of four quadrigae within the circus, with spectators, architectural and other details. The example is circular in form, with an annular handle; the nozzle enriched with mouldings. This lamp, also reproduced from a drawing, is illustrated in fig. 11.

There are specimens formed rectangularly, with wick-holes in the bodies, one of them for twelve lights; another, annular in form, with a single nozzle in front, has a miniature lamp fixed on either side of the rim. The following examples are in my collection :—

Fig. 12.—Of light red paste, over 5 inches long. Annular body, no handle, nozzle flanked by mouldings. Enriched with the figure of a horse, a standard, a club, and a manger.
Fig. 13.—Of a dull grey paste. Subject, the figure of a crab.
Fig. 14.—Cupid, with the attributes of Mars; a conceit to show the power of love over force.
Fig. 15.—Of a brown paste, about 4½ inches long; nozzle projecting very slightly. Margin around concave top enriched with a band of egg and tongue moulding.

Some of the lamps found near Naples are very artistic. They are made of a light grey or yellow paste.

The Nile valley has yielded but few terra-cotta lamps, that is vessels known as such, of a date prior to the Roman occupation of the country, and most of the examples preserved belong to the Christian period, many as late as the sixth century, and even up to the Saracen invasion. Several glazed specimens of a yellowish-brown ware, inscribed with the cartouches of the Ptolemies, have been found at Alexandria. Glazed lamps are rare anywhere. The influence exercised by Egypt on Christian art as well as on religion was immense. Great numbers of lamps with Coptic Christian emblems have been found in the country, and many of these symbols had descended from Pagan times; the Ankh (crux ansata), the ancient Egyptian sign for life, was often used in ornament to express the Cross of Christ. The Copts are Monophysite. Some Egyptian lamps are made of a coarse brown or a yellowish clay, others of red paste, and a few specimens in black ware have been discovered. Many of those of a dark red paste are probably of Roman make. The town Coptos (Kabt) was noted for its pottery from very

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