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Elaborate Clay Oil Lamp Roman Syria 100AD $199.99

For Customers outside of USA

Genuine Roman/Syrian Terra Cotta Oil Lamp 1st Century A.D.

CLASSIFICATION: Roman/Syrian Terra Cotta Oil Lamp with Sunburst Design, Handle, and Cedar Tree “Trademark” on Bottom.

ATTRIBUTION: Eastern Roman Empire (Syria), 1st Century A.D. Perhaps produced in the Roman Province of Phoenice (present-day Lebanon).


Length: 75 millimeters (3 inches)

Width: 53 millimeters (2 1/8 inches)

Height: 30 millimeters (1 1/4 inches).

CONDITION: Excellent. Very fine integrity, no cracks, breaks, or repairs. Professionally conserved (cleaned and sealed).

DETAIL: This is a very nicely preserved terracotta oil lamp dated to the 1st century A.D. Its origin is Syria under Roman occupation. Syria was an important Roman Province, and the capital city of Antiochia was second in importance only to Rome itself. The style of the oil lamp and the trademark beneath indicate that the lamp originally came to Syria as trade goods from what is present day Lebanon, part of Roman Syria’s Province of Phoenice. The top surface of the oil lamp portrays a very ornate sun burst pattern which was extremely popular in ancient Rome. Many bronze pendants are recovered done in a similar style, a stylized sunburst with orbs at the end of each ray. The rather intricate sunburst encircles the fill hole. There is a raised handle at the rear. The design present on the top, as can be seen, is even after the passage of almost 2,000 years, still quite sharp and distinct. Though by no means rare, it is uncommon to find such a nice design in such an exceptionally well-preserved state.

Oil was filled into the center hole, and a wick placed into the front hole and then set ablaze. You can see that there is a fair amount of soot residue around the wick hole, obviously this little lamp lit the interior of an ancient Roman household quite frequently. As well there are a few spots of brownish oil residue as well, almost a baked on glaze, some areas possessing more layers than others resulting in slightly patchy coloration. Such characteristics are of course consistent with use. Perhaps these signs of wear might be disappointing, but keep in mind that a lamp which is almost 2,000 years old was more than likely used. In fact, were it to show no signs of use it would be quite suspect. Aside from the slight wear and tear consistent with its use in ancient Roman Syria, it is otherwise without defect. It is quite sturdy and well made, truly a beautiful piece of ancient art.

Of course the most historically significant about this specimen is the very bold and wonderfully executed “trademark” on the underside of the lamp. It was not uncommon for the artisans who produced these pieces to leave some sort of “trade mark” on the underside of the pedestal so as to identify it as their produce. You can see here a marvelously distinct trademark image consisting of a cedar tree encircled by palm frond fringe and two limit lines around the fringe. It is a very complex signature, quite ornate when contrasted to the normal trademark. One can’t help but be struck by the similarity between the tree depicted here and the cedar tree depicted on the flag of Lebanon. Best as our research can determine, it seems probable that this little lamp was produced in the Roman/Syrian Province of Phoenice – present-day Lebanon. Cedar was highly valued in ancient Phoenicia as well as in ancient Egypt, and was exported from Phoenicia (known in the Bible as Canaan) to Egypt for over 2,000 years. The lamp has been cleaned, and sealed with a protective, inert, organic compound designed to protect it from the ravages of today’s acidic industrial atmosphere. Properly displayed, it will be one of your family’s heirlooms for generations to come.

HISTORY: Pottery is amongst the most abundant artifacts unearthed during excavations of Roman sites. Abundant throughout the empire, specimens such as this were even routinely and systematically exported by the Romans. Manufactured throughout the empire, from Gaul to Italy, the product was widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean world and the Roman colonies from Britain to Asia Minor. Pitchers like this were utilitarian implements both for the kitchen and dining table. Most terra cotta pieces such as this were functional kitchen items, and tended to be rather plain. The most widely used pottery in the ancient world were oil lamps, bottles, unguentariums, pitchers, bowls and plates. Their basic shapes remained unchanged for over a thousand years. The bottles and pitchers were used to store wine, water, oil and other liquids.

One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the ancient Roman Empire. In exchange for a very modest amount of contemporary currency, you can possess a small part of that great civilization in the form of a 2,000 year old piece of jewelry. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century (B.C.). In the 4th Century (B.C.) the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated the Etruscans and Celts. In the 3rd Century (B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated Carthage, and controlled the Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century (B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic (Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to control Egypt in the 1st Century (B.C.).

The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. For a brief time, the era of “Pax Romana”, a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine temporarily arrested the decay of the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.) when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire (The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.

At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. Valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably these ancient citizens would succumb to one of the many perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, two thousands years later caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor. Roman Soldiers oftentimes came to possess large quantities of “booty” from their plunderous conquests, and routinely buried their treasure for safekeeping before they went into battle.

If they met their end in battle, most often the whereabouts of their treasure was likewise, unknown. Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades, an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day 2,000 years or more after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, new markets have opened eager to share in these treasures of the Roman Empire.

The antiquities offered were originally part of a collection accumulated throughout most of the twentieth century. The Roman artifacts were found principally in Romania (literally "land of the Romans"), Bulgaria, Libya, and Syria. The Sumerian artifacts were unearthed in both Turkey and Syria, which along with Iraq and Iran constituted the majority of the sites of the ancient Sumerian civilizations. The Egyptian antiquities were part of a collection amassed in the mid-1960's, at the height of Soviet influence in Egypt. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.

These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price.

A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. Artifacts are mailed from the USA. Due to its fragile nature this particular piece is only shipped in an oversized box with lots of Styrofoam peanuts. The cost for shipping this item includes delivery confirmation (you can track your shipment on-line at the USPS Web Site). Additional items shipped together do result in a discount. The shipping weight of this item is 1 pounds. Various rates for shipping both domestically and internationally may be viewed here. A wide variety of cost-effective methods are available including surface mail, air mail, and expedited mail.