Roman Oil Lamp, Ancient Pottery. 63 BC.
Size: 7.5x6 cm. 3x2.3 inch.
Pottery lamps were used as a source of light by all Romans. Artificial light was common throughout the Roman Empire, and pottery oil lamps offered an alternative to candlelight. Candles, made from beeswax or tallow, were cheaper to buy but do not survive as well.
Pottery lamps functioned by adding oil through the central hole and burning a wick placed into the nozzle area. Wicks were commonly made from pieces of linen, but could also be made from flax or papyrus.
Pottery oil lamps were made in three different ways. They could be handmade, wheel-made, or made by mold. The use of molds became increasingly popular but again consisted of two different methods. Once made, mold could be used to create many lamps, which meant that lamps could be easily and directly reproduced. This also ensured that the manufacturing of lamps could be extremely efficient and organized, producing large volumes of goods with standardized quality.