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

Late lamps of Asia Minor types


Late lamps of Asia Minor types, sometimes just called “late Ephesian lamps,” are known, first, from the discovery of about two thousand examples in the Seven Sleepers Cemetery at Ephesus, published by Miltner 1937; second, from the discovery of 202 lamps, most of them found in the Artemision at Ephesus by J. T. Wood 1877; and, third, from another important deposit excavated on the island of Kalymnos by C. T. Newton (Newton inventory of objects acquired at Kalymnos, manuscript in the Department of Greece and Rome of the British Museum). More lamps of late Asia Minor types have been found in various other places but in smaller quantities: in Asia Minor itself (Cnidus, Didyma, Hierapolis, Iasos, Istanbul, Laodicea, Miletus, Mytilene, Pergamon, Samos, Sardis, Smyrna, Tyre, Yassi Ada); in Greece (Aegina, Athens, Chios, Corinth, Delos, Kenchreai, Nea Anchialos, Patras, Rhodes, Salonika); in Romania (Halmyris); and in Bulgaria and Egypt. A few examples have been collected in North Africa (Carthage, Sabratha), in Sicily (Molinello, Syracuse), in Italy (Ravenna), and in the South of France (in a shipwreck at Port-Vendres). Apart from published examples, there are still unpublished collections of the types in various museums, especially in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum (in great numbers), mostly from sites in western Turkey. It is highly probable that most of the lamps recorded were made in Ephesus itself, where several wasters of Loeschcke type VIII lamps have been excavated. Comparative neutron activation analyses of clays have proved the manufacture of Ephesus lamps at Sardis as well as at Ephesus, and we may conjecture the existence of other production centers, for example, Pergamon, where an excavated kiln has yielded a mold and a lamp of Late Asia Minor type.

Lamps of Late Asia Minor types have either a circular or an oval elongated body that is sharply carinated, with protruding nozzle. The shoulders are outward sloping and offer a variety of characteristic decorations in both relief and sunken patterns: rows of globules, slanted radiating grooves, ovolos, vine-tendrils and grapes, tongues or petals, and concentric rings. The nozzle, whose length varies, may be rounded or heart-shaped. It is sometimes separated from the discus by a band of tongues or a cluster of globules. Most lamps may be divided into two groups: one without a nozzle channel, corresponding to Broneer type XXIX, group 4; and one with a nozzle channel, corresponding to Broneer type XXIX, group 3. All lamps have a grooved handle, rarely pierced. Some handles may be very broad with ribs marked off by three to five grooves. This last shape is illustrated in Miltner 1937, nos. 773–77, 940–50, pl. 5, and nos. 231 and 309, pl. 13; and in Bailey BM III, Q 3216, pl. 114. The shape is, however, not exclusive to lamps found in Ephesus but appears elsewhere, for instance, Waagé 1941, nos. 159–60, fig. 80, from Antioch-on-the-Orontes; Perlzweig 1961, nos. 356 and 359, pl. 11, from the Athenian Agora; and Hübinger 1993, no. 235, from Smyrna, to limit ourselves to a few examples.

Ornament handles are not infrequent; Miltner shows thirty examples, mostly in the shape of a leaf; nine in Bailey BM III are likewise leaf-shaped. These are close to cats. 540 and 541.

Of eighteen Getty lamps of the types considered, six have a plain discus: cats. 525, 527–30, and 538; four have a discus decor of rings or circular bands: cats. 531, 535, 540–41; two have a rosette: cats. 526 and 532; one a menorah: cat. 524, a decor occurring among the Seven Sleepers lamps (Miltner 1937); one a Greek cross: cat. 534, with alpha and omega on its branches, accompanied by a sheep and a sun (Greek crosses are in fact frequent on Late Ephesus lamps); the four last discus decors are: a female bust: cat. 533; two busts together: cat. 539; a bestiarius and a lion: cat. 536; and an unclear scene with what seems to be a male figure: cat. 537.

Late Ephesus type lamps have very characteristic underbodies. Bailey has distinguished three major forms: Eph. A, Eph. B, and Eph. C. In forms A and B, the bases have a thick raised ring; form C shows several concentric rings. In A and B two or three parallel grooves flank the underside of the nozzle. Forms B and C show a very characteristic fishtail- or anchor-shaped handle termination in light relief. We will refer to Bailey’s classification given in Bailey BM III, fig. 162, whenever possible (see fig. 4). No bases carry potters’ names, but quite a few have a large plain incuse planta pedis: cats. 524–28, 532–34, 537–38, and 541. This is observed on lamps of the same type found in Ephesus (Bailey BM III, p. 371) and in Tire, Turkey (see Gürler 2005, no. 92/212, pl. 3). Cat. 531 has a narrow footprint, different from the previous ones. Several examples have an impressed circular mark for which Bailey has no clear explanation (Bailey BM III, p. 371): cat. 530 is one example, possibly also cat. 540. The mark of cat. 535 is a cross formed of four vertically placed small circles with two more placed horizontally. The eastern place of manufacture or origin of the Getty lamps, all purchased in Asia Minor, some possibly in Ephesus itself, is attested by the presence of similar footprints, or impressed circular marks, found both on Getty lamps and on British Museum lamps (the latter excavated in Ephesus), or on examples found in Tire.

Fig 04
Fig. 4. Ephesian underbodies. From Bailey BM III, fig. 162. With kind permission of D. M. Bailey.

The date of Late Ephesus lamps is uncertain, due to the lack of archaeological contexts in all relevant excavations. Bailey enumerates the little reliable data available and opts for maintaining only two broad time spans: A.D. 500–600 for the lamps without a nozzle channel (i.e., Broneer type XXIX, group 4); and A.D. 550–650 for the lamps with a nozzle channel (i.e., Broneer type XXIX, group 3). But he admits that both groups could begin up to half a century earlier: group 4 starting about A.D. 450, and group 3 about A.D. 500 (Bailey BM III, p. 372). The shipwreck of Yassi Ada I, which has yielded twenty-four lamps typical of the Byzantine period, is dated to ca. A.D. 625, during the reign of Heraclius, A.D. 610–41 (see Ricci 2002). For the Getty lamps, deriving from private collections without known contexts, we will adopt Bailey’s dating.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 524