Herodian Terracotta Lamp


Herodian Terracotta Lamp


Terracotta Lamp


Herodian lamps first appeared at the very end of the 1st century BCE. These types of lamps, typically found in Judea and Jerusalem, are known for the simplicity of their design, as well as their splayed nozzle. The nozzle has often been thought of as an imitation of earlier mould-made Hellenistic lamps. Herodian lamps were wheel-made and rarely carried artistic features, although they sometimes featured very basic geometric ornamentations. Because of their closed shape, they would have allowed for a better containment of oil than open-plated lamps, and would have provided a more efficient burning rate. The wick would have been made from materials such as oakum, papyrus and linen and would sit in the mouth of the lamp. The fuel would most likely have been made from olive oil and/or animal fat. On average, these lamps would produce a flame for 50-70 minutes.

This lamp is made of a brick-red ceramic fabric, is partially broken and has evidence of burning around the projecting spout. Although unclear whether it is a Herodian lamp or an earlier Late Hellenistic lamp (common throughout the Mediterranean at that time), its circular wick hole in the middle of the body surrounded by a very low ridge and incised line around its circumference, lack of décor and the general shape of the spout suggest a lamp of Herodian nature. Probably from Palestine.


From Stone to Screen




From Stone to Screen


Hellenistic or Herodian ( c. 1st century BCE)


Emma Ramsden (Research and Content)
David Assaf (Web Design)
Jessica Matteazzi (Photography)
Chelsea Gardner (Collection Curator)




Adan-Bayewitz, D. et al. (2008). Preferential Distribution of lamps from the Jersulaem Area in the Late Second Temple Period (Late First Century B.C.E.- 70 C.E.). Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 350. 37-85.

Elrasheedy, A. & D. Schindler (2015). Illuminating the Past: Exploring the Function of Ancient Lamps. Near Eastern Archaeology 78. 36-42.

Gardner, G. E. (2014). City of Lights: The Lamps of Roman and Byzantine Jerusalem. Near Eastern Archaeology 77. 284-290.

Smith, R.H. (1961). The “Herodian” Lamp of Palestine: Types and Dates. Berytus 14. 53-65.

Additional Readings:

Bailey, D.M. (1996). A Catalogue of the Lamps in the British Museum (vol. 4): Lamps of Metal and Stone, and Lampstands. London: British Museum Press.

Djuric, S. (1995). Ancient Lamps from the Mediterranean. North York: Eika Bookselling & Publishing.

Gunneweg, J. & I. Perlman (1985). The Origin of the “Herodian” Lamp. Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society. 79-83.

Rosenthal, R. & R. Sivan (1978). Ancient Lamps in the Schloessinger Collection. Jerusalem: “Ahva” Press.


Ceramic - Terracotta


Terracotta Lamp


Herodian Terracotta Lamp


Ancient Lamps; Herodian Lamps; Ceramic Lamp Technology

Original Format

Ceramic Lamp

Physical Dimensions

8.6 cm x 2.5 cm




From Stone to Screen, “Herodian Terracotta Lamp,” UBC CNERS Artifact Collections, accessed March 21, 2019, https://cnerscollections.omeka.net/items/show/106.