Shell or saucer lamp



Accession Number
W1081
Current Location
House of Life (first floor), Pottery case
Object Type
Implements and utensils, Lighting equipment and implements, Lamp
Material
Pottery
Provenance
Palestine, Tell Fara, Tomb 802
Measurements
Height: 55mm | Maximum diameter: 132mm | Depth: 32mm |
Number of Elements
1

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Description

A shell or saucer lamp from Tell Fara with sooting around the pinched area. It was presumably excavated by the British School of Archaeology in Egypt 1928-1929. For similar items see Smith, R.H. 1964, The Household Lamps of Palestine in Old Testament Times In 'The Biblical Archaeologist', 27, 2-31. Saucer lamps, some with lamp stands, have been found in ritual contexts in the Bucheum at Armant (Mond, R. and Myers, O.H. 1934, The Bucheum, 89, 135). While animal fat could be used to light oil lamps, several vegetable oils were also available to the ancient Egyptians (Serpico and White 2000).  Castor oil seems to have been the most common. The oil would presumably have seeped through the pores in clay. This could be prevented by adding water to the lamp and indeed Petrie speaks of a demotic text where this appears to be suggested (Smith 1964, 8-9). Herodotus writing in the fifth century BCE said that the Egyptians fed their lamps on a mixture of oil and salt (History 2.62). Smith (1964, 6) states that while a brighter flame may be obtained by putting salt on the wick, adding it to the oil does not seem to produce any effect. As well as being used to light the home, lamps were also associated with religion. Saucer lamps, some with lamp stands, have been found in ritual contexts in the Bucheum at Armant (Mond and Myers 1934, 89, 135).

Munsell Chart reading

Exterior:10YR 8/2 White + 2.5Y N3 Very dark grey on mouth opening Interior: 10YR 8/2 White Core: 7.5 4/6 Dark brown.

Bibliography

Forbes, R.J. 1966 Studies in Ancient Technology, Leiden, pages 146ff.   Mond, R. and Myers, O.H. 1934. The Bucheum. London : the Egypt Exploration Society. Murray, M. A. The Splendour that was Egypt page 88. Serpico, M. and White, R. 2000. Oil, fat and wax. In Nicholson, P.T. and Shaw, I. (eds.) Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, Cambridge , 390-429. Smith, R.H. 1964, The Household Lamps of Palestine in Old Testament Times In 'The Biblical Archaeologist', 27, 2-31.

Other Identity
F/802x3C (excavation number written on the underside in black ink) | 150 (written on the underside in blue)
Previous Owners
British School of Archaeology in Egypt | Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936)
Excavation Details

British School of Archaeology in Egypt | 1929 |

Acquisition
Long-term loan, The Wellcome Trust (15 Feb 1971)
Last modified: 18 Mar 2022

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