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TIOH Art Tour: Ancient Clay Oil Lamps 

Clay Oil Lamp a 

  • Holy Land, Israel, c. 50 BC-50 CE 
  • Herodian terra-cotta oil lamp. 
  • Gift of the Briskin Family 

Clay Oil Lamp b 

  • Judean Hills, c. 200-300 CE 
  • Gift of Israel Bonds 

Clay Oil Lamp c 

  • Jordan, c. 400-600 CE 
  • Byzantine terra-cotta oil lamp. 
  • Gift of the Briskin Family 

These clay oil Lamps were made in the Middle East in the first centuries of the Common Era. Their makers are unknown. Clay lamps were in common use in the Middle East 4000 years ago. The earliest looked more like a squared-off open bowl, but by 300 BCE the sides were folded over and the shapes seen here were common. The lack of ornamentation implies that these were for everyday use. 

These are not ritual objects. They are the stuff of everyday life two thousand years ago. Look how small they are. Imagine how small was the flame they made in the night. It is a wonder that their bodies – fragile clay after all – have lasted all these years unbroken. 

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