III. Roman-Period Clay Lamps / Types from both Western and Eastern Provinces of the Roman Empire / Augustan and Imperial Lamps

Loeschcke type XIV (Tüllenlampe)


The vessel of this type looks like a candlestick. It consists of a wheelmade flat-bottomed bowl with a slightly rounded or vertical wall, which is equipped in its center with a cylindrical vertical socket whose function, at first thought, is to hold a wax candle. The presence of one or often several cut-out openings in this socket has intrigued several specialists. Loeschcke has with some reason considered that they might facilitate, by means of a needle, taking off the stump of a burned-down candle before putting in a new one. But some openings, he remarks, are so small that they could not play that role.

Another possibility is that the socket might be the wick-holder of an open lamp burning either fat or tallow, like open lamps of Loeschcke types XI and XIII. Goethert explains the openings in the socket as a way to bring more air to the burning wick. She identifies six variants of sockets based on the shape and number of their openings (Goethert 1997, p. 152, figs. 91–92). Bailey BM III publishes three lamps, Q 1650–Q 1652, close to Loeschcke 1919, Tüllenlampen nos. 1044 and 1047–49; Bailey interprets the BM lamps only as candlesticks, calling the socket a candleholder (description of Q 1650). Several authors prefer to see in these objects nothing but open tallow lamps: Goethert, for the thirty-eight examples from Trier; Bémont, for the nine Gallic examples in the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Bémont and Chew 2007, p. 227); Carré, for the fifty examples from Alesia (Carré 1985); and Joffroy, for the twenty-four examples from Vertillum (Joffroy 1957). A compromise is to adopt, as Leibundgut does, both interpretations. Concerning the seventy-seven examples recorded in Switzerland, she says: “Die Tüllenlampen dienten als Talghälter und als Kerzenhälter” (Leibundgut 1977 p. 58). To confirm this view, fig. 17, p. 317, in Loeschcke’s 1919 catalogue shows two tallow lamps close to his type XI, each provided with a candleholder.

Numerous in Britain and central and eastern Gaul, Tüllenlampen are attested in small numbers also in Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, and Asia Minor. A related type is found in great numbers at Isthmia, Greece—about 1,300 lamps have been excavated in the Sanctuary of Palaimon there (and very few at Corinth), hence their name of Palaimonion lamps—(see Broneer 1977, pp. 35–52). They do present some similarity to Loeschcke type XIV, mostly in the presence of a tubular socket or wick-holder in the center of a saucerlike bowl. But they are larger than Loeschcke type XIV, their walls are curved and not almost vertical, they have no handle, and they burned olive oil exclusively. Given the differences, “it would be hazardous to conclude that there is any direct connection between the few examples from the western provinces and the more numerous lamps from Isthmia” (Broneer 1977, p. 36). The date of Tüllenlampen lacks substantial archaeological evidence. Bailey suggests the second half of the first century A.D. or the first half of the second century; Leibundgut and Goethert, first to third century A.D. Lamps found in Alesia are dated from the last decades of first century to the first decades of second (Carré 1985, p. 283). Lindros Wohl takes into account the more recent excavations at Isthmia, showing that Palaimonion lamps lasted in use until the early decades of the third century A.D. (see Lindros Wohl 2017, cat. nos. 83–102).

Banner image: Detail of cat. 462