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Lamp

Lamp

Israel, 800-586 B.C.E.
  • Clay: wheel-turned, slipped, and fired
  • Height: 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm) Diameter: 5 in. (12.7 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Archaeology Acquisition Fund, JM 12-73.22
  • Digital image © 2006 The Jewish Museum, New York Photo by Ardon Bar Hama
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Long before electric lights or even candles were invented, oil lamps were used to produce light for everyday needs, as well as for religious ceremonies. This early style of lamp was made on a potter’s wheel. It started out as a bowl; one end was then pinched to create a spout. The user poured oil into the bowl, set a wick made from flax in the spout, and then lit the oil-soaked wick on fire. Evidence of the flame can still be discerned in the blackened mouth of this lamp.

The design of oil lamps underwent a series of changes over the centuries. Earlier lamps were open bowls with four pinched spouts. In the early second millennium BCE, a transition occurred to open bowls with just one folded spout, like this one. This basic form continued until the Hellenistic Period (4th century BCE).