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

Loeschcke type VIII

Characterized by a circular body and short rounded nozzle, Loeschcke type VIII, whose early examples go back to Claudian times, experienced a tremendous floruit at the end of the first century A.D. and during the two next centuries. It continued to exist on a diminished scale through the fourth century and occasionally in the fifth. Spread all over the Roman Empire, the type was seriously challenged only by Loeschcke types IX and X (Firmalampen), in northern Italy and in the northern and central European provinces. During such a long time span numerous variants evolved, hence a certain difficulty in organizing their classification. To give just a few examples among the many typologies existing, Provoost’s type 3, which groups the lamps here considered, is divided into six variants, which are in turn divided into ten subvariants; in Heres’ catalogue the type comprises six subtypes; in Bisi’s, ten; Bailey distinguishes four types (O, P, Q, R), each respectively subdivided into six, three, ten, and one groups. To classify these numerous variants, often close to one another, selecting merely the shape of the nozzle as the major criterion does not always prove sufficient. Different data must be taken into account, such as the thickness of the clay, the quality of the glaze, the presence or absence of a handle and of a specific decor on the shoulder, the depth of the basin, or the size of the lamp. Neglecting these secondary criteria, some lychnologists long inappropriately attributed to Loeschcke type I African lamps with a triangular volute-nozzle (Deneauve type X), dated to the second–third century A.D. In reality, Loeschcke type I had by then long ceased to exist (see, e.g., Ponsich 1961, no. 33, pl. 5). Bailey’s classification of Loeschcke type VIII lamps deals only with objects made in Italy. No surprise then that some shapes encountered among the African Getty lamps of Loeschcke type VIII are absent in the British Museum. We will therefore refer most of the time to Bussière’s typology, worked out for his catalogue of Algerian lamps, and refer to Bailey only when needed. Bussière’s classification of rounded nozzle shapes will also be used (see fig. 3). When the name Bussière is spelled out, it precedes a lamp form (e.g., Bussière form D I); when it is abbreviated it stands for the nozzle form only (e.g., Bus. 2a).

Getty lamps belonging to Loeschcke type VIII are presented in two groups: I) with round-tipped nozzle, and II) with heart-shaped nozzle. We have thought it more practical and useful for the reader to present in two separate categories the lamps with an Italic and/or African place of manufacture or origin and those with an eastern Mediterranean origin. By the latter we mean lamps from Greece and the Aegean islands, the Black Sea area, Asia Minor, the Levant, Cyprus, Egypt, and Cyrenaica. While information about place of manufacture or origin is sometimes missing, the following criteria enable us to identify a presumed eastern Mediterranean place of manufacture or origin: 1) globules on shoulder and nozzle; 2) impressed circles on shoulder and nozzle; 3) depth of basin; 4) planta pedis; and 5) the color of the clay and the presence of mica. Let us consider those criteria separately:

  1. Globules: several eastern lamps are characterized by a plain rounded shoulder with four or five beads placed around the shoulder, one on each side of the handle, and two or three in the shoulder space close to the nozzle. These globules can be in pronounced relief (e.g., cats. 413, 416–17, 435), or half sunk within a small circle (e.g., cats. 407, 411–12). This particular decorative feature is never found on Roman African lamps of Loeschcke type VIII. It apparently occurs only rarely on Italian examples (e.g., Walters 1914, no. 1114, a heart-shaped nozzle lamp from Pozzuoli). On the other hand, in Asia Minor and particularly in Egypt, globules are frequent on lamps of Loeschcke type VIII and even on lamps of other types. See for examples: Hellmann 1985, p. 49, no. 49, “Les trois gros points ou clous sont fréquents à la base du bec dans les ateliers égyptiens du IIIe s.”; Osborne 1924, no. 54; Shier 1978, pp. 36–37 (Egypt); Fabbricotti 1992, pl. LVII, nos. 1–2 , 7–8 (Egypt); Breccia 1926, Musée d’Alexandrie pl. 39.1 (Egypt); Cahn-Klaiber 1977, nos. 324–27, pl. 34, and no. 331, pl. 35 (Egypt); Israeli and Avida 1988, p. 31, no. 37, with a discus showing a bust of Serapis (Egypt); Walters 1914, no. 1183, fig. 250 (Fayum); Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, p. 45, no. 180 (Egypt); Bailey BM III, Q 2033, pl. 42 (Egypt), Q 2042–Q 2049, pl. 43 (Egypt), and Q 3080, pl. 103 (Ephesus); Miltner 1937, nos. 122 and 124, pl. 12 (Ephesus); Sussman 1994, no. 22, pl. 30; Vessberg 1953, no. 6, pl. 3; Vessberg and Westholm 1956, p. 124, no. 6, fig. 39 (Cyprus); Menzel 1969, nos. 312–13, fig. 46.20 (Sakkara).
  2. Impressed circles: some lamps have several small impressed circles on the shoulder (e.g., cats. 334, 407). These circles appear at the foot of the handle, at midshoulder, or at the nozzle top. There can also be two or three of them between the wick-hole and the discus. Such a combination is not found on Italian or African examples, but is typically eastern Mediterranean. In some cases the same eastern lamp may bear on its shoulder both small impressed circles and globules (e.g., cat. 409). On Italian and African Loeschcke type VIII lamps, only two impressed dots, not small impressed circles, usually decorate the nozzle top, either alone or flanking the horizontal groove above the wick-hole.
  3. Basin depth: another criterion to help determine the eastern origin of a lamp is the pronounced depth and the rounded profile of its basin (e.g., cats. 330, 332, 436). Unfortunately, catalogues do not always give the profiles of lamps. But after multiple comparisons, when the height of the lamps is consistently given, we can state that the basin of an eastern Mediterranean lamp is usually a third deeper than an African lamp of similar type.
  4. Planta pedis: This workshop mark may occur on African Loeschcke type VIII lamps, but on early examples only (first century A.D.). It is exceptional in the second century, when the tria nomina indicating the lampmaker’s names is the signature par excellence. On the other hand, the planta pedis occurs much more frequently on eastern Mediterranean lamps of Loeschcke type VIII dated to the second century; in such cases the footprints are always plain, without lettering (e.g., cats. 407, 409–10, 414). Some very large and deeply impressed examples seem even to be specific to certain Asia Minor production sites, Ephesus and Sardis especially, on late lamps of the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. (e.g., cats. 528, 532–33, 537) (see Poulou-Papadimitriou 1986, pp. 587–88, fig. 20) (Samos); Bailey BM III, Q 3104–Q 3116, Q 3122–Q 3125, Q 3129–Q 3134, Q 3143–Q 3147, Q 3174–Q 3186 (Ephesus), Q 3212–Q 3213, Q 3218 (Sardis). Such large plain footprints are totally absent on African lamps of the same period.
  5. Color of clay and mica: The surface color and the presence of small particles of gold or silver mica sometimes help to pinpoint a lamp’s origin. Eastern lamps on average seem to have darker and more vivid surface colors (dark browns, vivid oranges, and reds) than their Italic and African counterparts, which are usually covered by a less even and hard glaze or slip and show a broader variety of often lighter tints.

Of the clay lamps in the Getty collection, sixty-four show mica. Hellenistic lamps: cats. 9, 21, 25, 28, 33–34, 36, 38–42, 48–51, 57–58, and 61–64; Roman lamps of various Loeschcke types, Broneer type XXIX, a few unusual forms, lampstands and figurine-lamps: cats. 108, 117, 118, 147, 154, 164, 239–40, 242, 247, 280, 294, 301, 333–34, 349, 352, 406, 412, 416, 423, 429, 430, 435, 457, 467, 472, 488, 510, 517, 524, 526–27, 529, 531, 541, 583, 592, 596-97, 610. Only one lamp of African place of manufacture or origin, cat. 294, shows some mica. All the others with mica have an eastern place of manufacture or origin. This mica usually consists of tiny silvery particles; in sixteen cases it is a golden powder.

Nozzle forms encountered in Loeschcke type VIII lamps:

Fig 03
Fig. 3. Nozzle forms Bus. 1–Bus. 11. Drawing by Jean Bussière. From Bussière 2000, figs. 44 and 44 bis, by permission of Éditions Monique Mergoil.