Feb 15, 2012

Byzantine oil lamp found

Tuesday started a little slow but then Irina found the floor of the room we were working in and up popped this beautiful Byzantine Oil lamp fragment with a Greek inscription that dates to the 5th to 7th century AD. The oil lamp was identical to one published from the 2009 Temple Mount Salvage Operation in Jerusalem (Franz and Hernandez 2009, 8) and one we found last season in the same building.

According to Alliata, these oil lamps are ‘recognized as a typical product of the Jerusalem area … considered to be eulogies or souvenirs that the pilgrims took back from Jerusalem to their home’ (1999, 123; Magness 1993, 176). These eulogae, from the holy places in Jerusalem, have been found at Abila, Jerash, Amman, Hesban, Madaba, Mount Nebo and as far south as Qorayat (Alliata 1999, 123). Based on the absence of soot on the lamps, Hirschfeld and Solar following Antoninus Placentius’s description of the ritual bathing practices at Hammat- Gader, suggest that the lepers used the lamps in some ritual healing ceremony carried out at the thermal springs (aquae calidae; 1981, 202, 206; see also Dvorjetski 2007, 230). The complete Greek inscription reads ‘The Light of Christ Shines for All’ and dates to the 5th to 7th century AD (Bailey 1972, 14a; Hoff et al. 1986, 172–76; Djuric 1995, c253; Wetzel 1997, 25; Loffreda 2001, 22–31; Adler 2005, 150–51). The oil lamp establishes a Christian presence at Tall el-Hammam during the period of the construction of the Madaba Map (AD 542 and 570) and lends credibility to the structure being a bath house and on the Roman road from Jerusalem.

Extract from David E. Graves and Scott Stripling “Re-Examination of the Location for the Ancient City of Livias.” Levant 43.2 (2011): 197.


Adler, N. (2005) Oil Lamps of the Holy Land from the Adler Collection. Jerusalem: Old City.

Alliata, E. (1999) "The pilgrimage routes during the Byzantine period in Transjordan." Pp. 121–24 in Alliata and Piccirillo, M. (eds.) (1999) The Madaba Map centenary: Travelling through the Byzantine Umayyad period. Proceedings of the International Conference held in Amman 7–9 April 1997. Jerusalem: Studium Biblicum Franciscannum.1999.

Bailey, D. M. (1972) Greek and Roman Pottery Lamps. London: British Museum.

Djuric, S. (1995) Ancient Lamps from the Mediterranean. Toronto: Eika.

Dvorjetski, E. (2007) Leisure, Pleasure, and Healing: Spa Culture and Medicine in Ancient Eastern Mediterranean. Leiden: Brill.

Franz, G. and Hernandez, S. (2009) "The most important discovery was the people: An interview with Dr. Gabriel Barkay." Bible and Spade 22/1, 3–8.

Hirschfeld, Y. and Solar, G. (1981) "The Roman thermae at Hammat-Gader: Preliminary report of three seasons of excavations." Israel Exploration Journal 31, 197–219.

Hoff, V., Metzger, C. and Lyon-Caen, C. (1986) Catalogue des lampes en terre cuite grecques et chre´tiennes. Paris: Ministe`re de la Culture et de la Communication.

Loffreda, S. (2001) Light and Life: Ancient Christian Oil Lamps of the Holy Land. Jerusalem: Franciscan.

Magness, J. (1993) Jerusalem Ceramic Chronology: Circa 200–800 CE. Sheffield: JSOT.

Placentinus, Antoninus (1892) Kritische und sprachliche Erla¨uterungen zu Antonini Placentini Itinerarium, St Anna in Augsburg fu¨r des Schuljahr. Ed. P. Geyer. Augsburg: Pfeiffer.

Wetzel, H. (1997) Antike Tonlampen. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitatsverlag.

1 comment:

Dr M said...

Thanks for the great and interesting post....