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4. OIL LAMP FILLER

A lovely classical Greek or Roman Oil lamp filler. A slip decorated body with concentric molding to foot, arched handle and thin spout. C. 4th Century BC - 1st Century AD.

There is much debate as to whether antiquities such as these spouted vessels were used for replenshing oil lamps or as 'feeder' vessels for infants. My personal feeling is that they had a variety of uses. Certainly the ornate design and decoration on this vessel suggests a more domestic deployment.

Oil lamps required some kind of fuel as well as a wick. Fuel types ranged from animal fat to bees wax to various plant based oils including olive oil, sesame oil, and grape-seed oil. Olive oil is believed to have been the primary source of lamp fuel used in the Mediterranean region. Wicks were made from any kind of fibrous material, typically linen, papyrus, or other plant fibres.

By the time olive and similar oils became available, pottery technology had advanced to produce lamps specialized for that fuel. Handy, small portable oil lamps for lighting became widely available. Their design (partially enclosing the oil reservoir) minimized spillage, with the sides of the oil reservoir raised and curled inward over the oil, with a hole for the wick. The hole had the benefit that it allowed better control of the flame on the wick. The oil on the wick was exposed to adequate combustion air only outside the wick hole, thus limiting its size. The hole evolved into a more distinct nozzle in a variety of designs. A lamp with a nozzle can be burned for hours without having to trim or adjust the wick.


Condition: Very good. Minor damage to end of spout, chip to foot and some surface wear.

Dimensions: 10.5cm x 9cm approx.

Provenance: Ex. private collection, Scotland; acquired during the early to mid 20th Century.

Price: £149.00

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