III. Roman-Period Clay Lamps / Types from North African Provinces only / Augustan and Imperial Lamps

Atlante type XVI


The characteristics of this wheelmade lamp are its unusual form: a bowl superimposed by a smaller cone-shaped dome tapering up into a funnel-shaped collar of variable height or form. Around the junction of these two distinct parts is a deep gutter pierced by the wick-hole. Among several hundred Algerian examples, Bussière has distinguished five subtypes or variants, E VI 1–E VI 5. Most of the known lamps are made of common ceramic like cat. 507, but there are several examples made in TSA, too, for instance, cat. 506, hence their presence in Atlante I recorded as type XVI (pp. 205–6). Actually, cat. 507 was purchased in Asia Minor, but we present it together with its North African counterpart.

For a long time these lamps have been considered to be Vandal. Stratigraphic contexts elaborated during the international Carthage excavations confirm their production from the second half of the fifth century into the sixth, and even later (Carthage I, p. 57, fig. 4, no. 75; Carthage II, nos. 62–65, pl. 8, p. 235, fig. 4, no. 67, pp. 236–37, nos. 62–66; Carthage IV, p. 48, fig. 10, no. 6 [in a seventh-century layer], p. 92, fig. 30, no. G 47, pl. 8, type similar to Deposit XXII.6; Fulford and Peacock 1984, p. 240, nos. 1–3, fig. 91; Anselmino 1982, p. 162, nos. 14 and 15, inv. nos. 176B147 and III 76A411 in the Italian Mission material). In Algeria, where a considerable number of these lamps has been found, Leschi dates examples from his excavation of a Christian basilica to the sixth century and later (Leschi 1957, pp. 95–96). The type is found in North Africa only: Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. It is possible that the type may have derived from a wheelmade model broadly diffused in the Syro-Palestinian area from the third century A.D. (Orssaud and Sodini 1997). Has the African shape in its turn influenced some Islamic lamps (Bailey 1985, no. 171, and no. 1235, pl. 37, Sidi Khrebish) and through them the later Palestinian series? The question is open. See, for instance, the Palestinian lamp (cat. 548), dated seventh to eighth century A.D.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 506