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Section: Ancient Lamps
Page 4 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.

or replenishers, with long funnel-shaped necks; a Ptolemaic specimen from Hawara, Egypt, in my own collection, is illustrated on fig. 4. The body is formed elliptically, and on it is stamped indistinctly the head of an Apis bull. On the under side of the receiver are two raised annulets of clay. Its entire length is over 8 inches. An example of this kind of utensil, fashioned as a hound on his haunches, may be seen in the Babylonian-Assyrian room in the British Museum, and there is one in the form of a bird. Another in the shape of a grotesque human head, Romano-Egyptian, from Naucratis, is in my possession.

Numerous oil-replenishers of the sixth century of our era or thereabouts have been found at Alexandria. These terra-cotta oil flasks or bottles were carried about by pilgrims, filled with oil for replenishing lamps hanging in the various shrines they visited. Many of these ampullae bear on their faces figures of St Menas in relief. This saint was an Egyptian martyr who suffered death during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. The figure of this martyr is usually flanked by camels, more or less conventionally renderexl, in remembrance of some legend connected with the history of the saint. Three examples of oil-flasks of this kind lie on the table. Others in the National Collection are described and illustrated in the Society's Proceedings, vol. xii. p. 98.

Lamp-stands may be divided into two classes : one, for laying down; the other, a candelabrum on which to set a lamp, or to which a lamp was affixed, or from which lamps hung from its branches, for a greater diffusion of light. A Romano-British example of the first-named in my collection, though of bronze, fairly expresses the class. It was found at Berkhampstead ; the shallow body of oval form, the nozzle circular; a large crescent-shaped ornament projects over the annular handle. The length is nearly 8 inches, and the breadth at the widest part 3 inches.

On the archaic Etruscan sarcophagus in the British Museum (Cat. No. B. 630) is a lamp-stand, the legs of which are fashioned as lion's claws. A candelabrum in the same collection is formed as a long cylinder with a swelling base; the upper part of the column is modelled as a woman, who grasps with uplifted arms a lamp with three nozzles. This example came from Cameiros in Rhodes, a town destroyed B.C. 408.

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