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

Late Syrian lamps


These lamps have an elongated body; round-tipped nozzle with or without a broad channel; and a handle that may be pointed, broad and ribbed, or an ornament handle with a human or animal face or a geometric pattern. They belong to Kennedy type 20 = Dobbins (1977) type 21 = Hoff lampes à bec et anse symétriques. The type is attested in North Syria: the Homs region, Aleppo, and Antioch-on-the-Orontes.

Cat. 543 has a broad solid ribbed handle with four grooves, a typical feature of eastern Mediterranean lamps. The body is oval with a large filling-hole. A ridge surrounds both the discus and the wick-hole area. This lamp has parallels showing nearly the same ribbed handle: Lyon-Caen and Hoff 1986, no. 234 (Beirut region[?]); Bailey BM III, Q 2344 (donated by a British vice-consul in Aleppo); Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, no. 503; Waagé 1941, p. 77, no. 159, fig. 80 (Antioch-on-the-Orontes).

Cat. 544 has a single ridge surrounding both the filling-hole and the wick-hole, a bit similar to cat. 543. But like cats. 545–47, it has an ornament handle showing a female head in strong relief. Despite this common feature, these four lamps, which belong to the same type, show some slight differences among themselves. In cat. 545 the ridge, less accentuated than on cat. 544, is on the periphery of the lamp top. Cats. 545 and 546 have a flat top, while cat. 547 has a concave discus. Cats. 543–46 have circular base-rings, but cat. 547 has an oval base with an incuse planta pedis, a familiar workshop mark on lamps from Smyrna or Ephesus.

Close parallels to cats. 544–47 are given in Rey-Coquais 1964, p. 161, no. 44, pl. 10; Lyon-Caen and Hoff 1986, nos. 218–20 (purchased in Beirut); Bailey BM III, Q 2345–Q 2346 (Tyre[?]), pl. 61; Djuric 1995, nos. C 272–C 274; and Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, no. 501. A female head is not the only decor seen on the handles of these Syrian lamps; they can also show a lion’s head, a Greek cross, or various vegetal or geometrical designs. Three more lamps excavated in Salamis on Cyprus belong to the same type with the characteristic head handle (Oziol 1977, nos. 819–21, pl. 45).

In Antioch-on-the-Orontes these lamps are dated to the fifth and sixth centuries (Waagé 1941). A find of such lamps in catacombs in Homs (northern Syria), associated with Byzantine coins from Justinian to Heraclius, allows us to extend this time span to the mid-seventh century (Lyon-Caen and Hoff 1986, p. 141). Bailey suggests sixth to seventh century A.D.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 543