Early Christian Terracotta Oil Lamp - FISH - c. 425-500 AD


Early Christian Terracotta Oil Lamp , Eastern Roman/Byzantine, Circa 425-500 AD 

Mould made terracotta oil lamp with designs covering the top of the body. The primary design in the discus is a stylized fish – an early Christian Symbol. Surrounding the shoulder are a series of fleurons and circles.

This high quality lamp of distinctive red clay, was made, probably at Carthage or Thysdrus (El Djem) in northern Africa (Tunisia), for export through the Byzantine Empire. Carthage had a Byzantine Imperial mint from c. 533-695 AD. Excellent condition, with evidence of use.

This is a rare lamp with Byzantine Christian symbolism. A similar lamp with fish design is depicted in Harvard Divinity School, 2002 “Light from the Age of Augustine”, # 102. Other lamps with similar shape and origin are in British Museum Catalog III, #Q1789-1816. 

In the villas, palaces and shops of the Greek, Roman and Byzantine Empires terracotta oil lamps were the primary means of artificial lighting. They were usually filled with olive oil and held a wick (linen was the most often used material). They burned for hours to light up the ancient world. The rich, in their villas, needed hundreds; the poor had only a few.

Length: 5 7/16” inches

  • Inventory Number: PA-3306
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