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HOME : Biblical Antiquities : Herodian Oil Lamps : Herodian period oil lamp
Herodian period oil lamp - LK.324
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 50 BC to 50 AD
Dimensions: 3.03" (7.7cm) high x 2.16" (5.5cm) wide
Collection: Biblical Antiquities
Medium: Terracotta

Location: Great Britain
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An oil lamp is an object used to produce light for a period of time using an oil-based fuel source. The use of oil lamps began thousands of years ago and although not much common anymore, does continue to this day. Oil lamps are a form of lighting, and were used as an alternative to candles before the use of electric lights. Sources of fuel for oil lamps include a wide variety of plants such as nuts (walnuts, almonds) and seeds (sesame, olive, castor, flax). Also widely used were animals fats (butter, fish oil, shark liver, whale blubber, seals). The main external parts of a terracotta lamp are the shoulder, the pouring hole, the wick hole and the nozzle. The nozzle may be just an opening in the body of the lamp, or have an elongated shape. In some specific types of lamps, there is a groove on the upper part of the nozzle that runs along to the pouring hole to re-collect the oozing oil from the wick. Lamps can come with or without a handle and a handle may have different shapes. The most common is a ring shaped for the forefinger surmounted by a palmette, on which the thumb is pressed to stabilize the lamp. Other handles can be crescent shaped, triangular, or semi-ovular. The handleless lamps usually have an elongated nozzle, and sometimes have a lug rising diagonally from the periphery. Herodian oil lamps are considered to be mainly used by Jews. They are predominantly wheel made and rounded, furnished with a nozzle of concave sides. Herodian lamps are usually not decorated, and when decorated then the decoration tends to be rather simple. They date from the 1st century BC to the end of the 1st century AD and represent a very common find throughout the Israeli territory, with some examples having also been found in Jordan. The Herodian Dynasty was a royal dynasty of Edomite descent, ruling the Herodian Kingdom and later the Herodian Tetrarchy, as vassals of the Roman Empire. The Herodian dynasty began with Herod the Great, who assumed the throne of Judea with Roman support, bringing down the century long Hasmonean Kingdom. His kingdom lasted until his death in 4 BC, when it was divided between his sons as a Tetrarchy, which lasted for about 10 years and with a nominal title of kingship continuing until 92 AD., when the last Herodian monarch Agrippa II died and Rome assumed full power over his de jure domain. - (LK.324)


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