II. Greek and Hellenistic Clay Lamps / Wheelmade Lamps

Howland type 40 A, also called “Cnidian” type


This abundant type, represented in the Getty collection by only one example, cat. 17, takes its name—“Cnidian” type—from the fact that Newton (1858, 1859, 1862, 1989) found several hundred of these lamps on Cnidus, which suggests a Cnidian-based workshop. However, we may assume the lamps were also produced in other East Greek sites, possibly Antioch-on-the-Orontes, Tarsus, Miletus, Samaria/Sebaste, and Rhodes, where examples have also been found. They were commercialized mostly in Greece and the East Greek areas: Corinth, Athens, Cyprus, and Delos; the latter site has yielded a particularly large number (about 250).

The “Cnidian” lamp has a biconvex body with a sharp carination and raised base. The top of the lamp shows a small depressed area marked off by a circular groove and pierced by the central filling-hole. The rounded, wide shoulder is decorated with various relief motifs, molded separately and applied when the clay was leatherhard. Among popular motifs are the “Cnidian” bilobate leaf, rosettes of different forms, and slave masks. The lamp may have a ribbed strap handle or a cross-bound double-band handle. It has a short, splayed nozzle with curved ends and flukes at the sides, and a large oval wick-hole. There are also multinozzled lamps with up to twelve nozzles. “Cnidian” lamps were wheelmade of uniformly well-rinsed dark gray clay. Bailey BM I, p. 127, dates the production of the “Cnidian” gray lamps from the end of the third century B.C. to the first quarter of the first century B.C. The Mahdia shipwreck, which has yielded one “Cnidian” example, is dated to the first years of the first century B.C.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 17