I. Phoenico-Punic Clay Saucer Lamps

Vessberg type 1, Deneauve type X


The first clay lamps ever devised and produced in numbers appeared in the Near East in the late third millennium (Amiran 1969, pp. 189–90, pl. 59, pp. 291–93, pl. 100). They were handmade and had the shape of a square shallow bowl with four pinched corners, making four wick-rests (Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, p. 76, no. 311). A second form, now wheelmade and soon prevailing, took the shape of a saucer with one pinched corner forming a single wick-rest or spout (Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, p. 76, nos. 312–21). This shape—see cats. 1 and 2—lasted for about two thousand years with little change. Then a second pinched spout (sometimes more) was added (Oziol 1977, nos. 33–37, pl. 3). In a later stage of evolution the lamp changed from a saucer to more of a plain bowl with a flat and slightly raised base and two sides folded together, meeting on top to form a single wick-hole (Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, p. 79, nos. 329–30).

In the Punic area, not long before the fall of Carthage (146 B.C.), this last shape was further modified: Three sides of the bowl were pinched together to form two tubular nozzles, or wick-holes, at the front and a broad opening at the rear (Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, p. 67, nos. 274–75). Finally, the lamp was equipped with a raised circular base, making a small foot, and it became a closed vessel with three evenly spaced equal-sized openings for the wick-holes; for this shape, see cats. 3 and 4, which are similar to Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, p. 67, nos. 276–77. By the end of the second century B.C. the long life of the saucer type came to an end.

For more readings, see Amiran 1969; Bailey BM I, pp. 205–10; Oziol 1977, pp. 17–19; Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, pp. 75–79; Hayes 1980, p. 4, pls. 1, 3; Kassab Tezgör and Sezer 1995; and Sussman 2007. For Punic types specifically, see Cintas 1950; Deneauve 1969, pp. 23–39; and Bussière 1989.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 2