The first moldmade lamps appeared at the beginning of the third century B.C., when they started to compete with wheelmade lamps, which had been in use since the seventh century B.C. (Howland 1958, p. 129). Wheelmade lamps were generally not decorated. When they were, the decor was molded separately and applied to the lamp before firing (see, e.g., the so-called Cnidian lamp cat. 17). The molding technique enabled easier and faster decoration, as the decoration was made only once, for the patrix from which many molds were produced. Molding also enabled rapid mass production with less work.
Molding is said to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean and was soon adopted all over the Graeco-Roman world. For the next three centuries this common domestic artifact—the lamp—was to see a spectacular development, giving birth to an amazing diversity of decors and shapes. Several classifications of molded lamps produced in the Hellenistic period have been worked out for lamps found in excavations or kept in museum collections, the latter mostly of unknown place of manufacture or origin. However, no classification taken separately can account for the considerable variety of types seen in the lamps found all over the Mediterranean basin. Hence the difficulty in relating some Getty lamps to typologies not yet firmly established or even to types so far unrecorded. To further complicate things, some authors are not entirely consistent in their definition and appellation of a type, a group, or a series. For example, Schäfer isolates one group in the Pergamon material that he calls Herzblätterlampen on the basis of two side-lugs in the form of a heart-shaped leaf (Schäfer 1968, lamps nos. Q1–Q63). But he still lists under the heading Herzblätterlampen examples with rectangular lugs that have no heart-shaped decor at all, be it on the lugs, shoulder, or discus (see his lamps nos. Q43–Q46 and Q50, pl. 64). Lyon-Caen does the same (Lyon-Caen and Hoff 1986, see her nos. 120, 122–23). Bruneau includes Hellenistic lamps with two side-lugs in group III of his type XI, called lampes à réflecteurs et oreilles latérales (e.g., nos. 4203–19), even though some specimens do not have a reflector shield (Bruneau 1965, pp. 89–91, nos. 4216–17, pl. 22).