Object Record

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Catalog Number 01.C.49
Object Name Lamp
Title Oil Lamp
Artist Unknown
Description Late Roman or Early Christian lamp with a handle. The lamp is mold-made of reddish-brown material. On the top is a Latin cross. There are four air holes, one in each of the cross arms. The band has two multiple arc motifs on each side, plus a palmette toward the nozzle. The upper face of the handle has two inscribed lines. The nozzle has a small air-filling hole in addition to the wick hole. The bottom of the lamp is inscribed with a palmette-in-lozenge motif, with ringed dots at the ends of the lozenges. Label: "Picked up in Herculaneum 1830 by my wife Caroline E. G. Peale." There is also some hand-written inked text on the lamp itself, highly faded and partially covered by the pasted label.
Label Caroline E. G. Peale, wife of Franklin Peale of the U.S. Mint, collected this lamp in Italy in 1830. The paper label states that she obtained the lamp at Herculaneum, an ancient Roman town destroyed along with Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E. In both towns, volcanic flows preserved structures and objects, covering them completely. Herculaneum was rediscovered in 1709 when workers digging a well accidentally revealed the site. After regular excavations began in 1738, the site became popular with American and European tourists. Though this oil lamp dates to a time long after the destruction of Herculaneum, it represents American interest in collecting objects from ancient Greece and Rome. Oil lamps, used for light, were among the most common household items in ancient Rome, and were also buried in tombs and graves. The palmette-in-lozenge motif on this lamp is the mark of the workshop where it was manufactured. The cross on the top shows that the lamp was made in the late Roman period after the development of Christianity, possibly in the 4th century C.E.
Dimensions H-1.75 W-2.25 L-4 inches
Credit line American Philosophical Society. Gift of Mrs. Caroline Peale, 1830.
Search Terms archaeology