A Study-Outline of the Oil Lamp



The Evolution of the Oil Lamp


Archaeological Chronology


Period Descriptions 


The Evolution and Development of the Oil Lamp

PHASE I                       PHASE II                    PHASE III                     PHASE IV



Combustion               Vessel                      Agent                           Elaboration


nature                        flat surface               dried  grasses     bonfire/torch/embers              


lightening bolt            hollow rock              wood                           bowl with oil


volcanic action            sea shell             coal / tar                        bowl with wick


sparks / friction            fruit shell            fish oil                     open saucer/wick/oil


heat                       man-made bowl       vegetable oil         formednozzle/wick/oil

                              man-made saucer       gases                   closed bowl/wick/oil


                                                                   wax          closed decorated container


chemicals                        candle


                                           lamp                    gas                               gas


                                                                                                                       Light bulb






PALAEOLITHIC AGE (Primitive Stone Age)                     

Lower Palaeolithic                                                   1,500,000 -100,000 BCE

Middle Palaeolithic                                                    100,000  -  40,000 BCE

Upper Palaeolithic                                                       40,000  -  18,500 BCE


EPIPALEOLITHIC AGE  (Further Stone Age)  18,500 -  10,300 BCE


MESOLITHIC-NATUFIAN AGE  (Middle Stone Age)         

* Hollowed out stones first used for Lamps      10,300 -    8500 BCE 


NEOLITHIC AGE  (Later Stone Age)

Pre-Pottery Neolithic                                                8500  -    6000 BCE

Pottery Neolithic                                                      6000  -    4500 BCE



CHALCOLITHIC AGE  (Copper - Stone Age)                        

 * The development of the Pottery Oil Lamp        4500  -    3300 BCE  


BRONZE AGE  (Copper - Tin Age)

Early Canaanite / Early Bronze I-IV                                  3300 -    2000 BCE

Middle Canaanite / Middle Bronze I-II                              2000 -    1550 BCE

Late Canaanite / Late Bronze I-IIB                                  1550 -    1200 BCE


IRON AGE I  (1st Temple Period)

Israelite / Iron I-IIA                                                         1200 -      930 BCE


IRON AGE II  (Two Kingdom Period)

Israelite / Iron IIB-IIC                                                       930 -      586 BCE


PERSIAN / IRON AGE III  (2nd Temple Period)

Persian / Babylonian                                                         586 -      332 BCE


HELLENISTIC AGE  (Maccabean Era)

Hasmonaean / Hellenistic                                                 332 -        63 BCE


ROMAN AGE I  (Jewish Revolt Period)

Herodian / Early Roman I                                                 63 BCE -          70 CE


ROMAN AGE II   (Mishna and Talmudic Period)

Early Synagogue / Late Roman II                                     70 CE -        324 CE


BYZANTINE AGE   (New Age of Religions)

Christian / Jewish / Islam Era                                           324 CE -        640 CE


Archaeological Period Description


The Chalcolithic Period (4500-3300 BCE) is an intermediate phase between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age ( the name Chalcolithic is derived from the Greek words lithos and chalcos meaning "stone" and "copper", whose use preceded the bronze alloy produced from copper and tin).  By this stage, agriculture and animal husbandry were well established and formed society's economic backbone and ideological underpinning.  Astounding newfound wealth and artistic proficiency marks the Chalcolithic period as an impressive early period in Near Eastern archaeology.


The Early Bronze Age (Early Canaanite Period) (3300-2000 BCE) The Middle Bronze Age (Middle Canaanite Period) (2000-1550 BCE) The Late Bronze Age (Late Canaanite Period) (1550-1200 BCE), Canaan was subjected to Egyptian rule.  The number of settlements, during this period decreased markedly from the previous age and few rural settlements are known.  This suggests that a large element of the population had reverted to nomadism once again. The land of Palestine (Canaan) truly served as bridge or link between Egypt and Syria as trade routes and the movement of peoples steadily increased


The Early Iron Age I (Early Israelite Period) (1200-930 BCE) have traditionally been associated with the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, and the settlement of the tribes under the leadership of the Judges. 


It is now thought that much of the Israelite population was already present in the form of nomadic and semi-nomadic groups living in the rugged central hills of Samaria.  These groups subsequently consolidated control over this region, and united under a single ruler (Saul, then David according to the Bible) to counter the threat of the Philistines (one of the 'Sea Peoples' originating in the Aegean region) living on the coast and the Canaanites living on the lowlands.  Gradually prevailing against their enemies, they expanded into Judah, the Galilee, the Negev, and across the east bank of the Jordan River. 

The Iron Age II (The Israelite Period) (930-586 BCE), also called the 'Division of the Kingdom Era", continues with the United Kingdom under Solomon until the devastating division of the of the kingdom: Israel by the Assyrians in 772 BCE, and Judah by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, culminating with the Destruction of The Temple in Jerusalem in the same year.


Archaeological strata from The Iron Age III (The Persian Period / Second Temple Period) (586-332 BCE) tend to be incoherent and highly disturbed due to later building or erosion subsequent to the sites' abandonment.  The resulting scarcity of finds once led scholars to believe that it was a period of relative poverty when the country had still not recovered from the ravages of The Iron Age II.  However, it is now recognized that the Persian Age (Iron Age III) was a period of prosperity, particularly in the coastal cities, bolstered by a burgeoning maritime trade.  Cities grew rapidly, under the guidelines of Hippodamian (grid) planning.  Although the Persians were the supreme power at this time, commerce and contact were mainly oriented toward the Aegean and Phoenicia.  One indication of this is that the coins introduced into the local markets were Greek and Phoenician, not Persian.


The Hellenistic Period (332-63 BCE), starting with the conquests of Alexander the Great in 332 BCE marked another turning point for inhabitants of Eretz-Israel.  Greek influence was now stronger than ever, with political and cultural institutions spreading a new worldview, that of Hellenism.  Under Alexander, new cities were established and populated by Macedonian veterans, Greek mercenaries and traders, and elements of the local population.


The Roman Age I (63 BCE-70 CE) in Judea it can be said to have begun when the Hasmonean dynasty was replaced by the rule of Herod under Roman patronage.  The first century CE. saw the heyday of Jewish art, for both the Hasmoneans and Herod did their utmost to restore glory of the First Temple Period.  Ornamented architectural elements, decorated ossuaries (urns) and lamps, coins, jewellery, and other objects all expressed an aesthetic akin to the glory of Roman art, yet at the same time this expression was coloured and limited by Jewish motifs and restrictions.


The Roman Age II (70-324 CE) began after the total destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE.  Jerusalem was almost completely destroyed during the rebellion (132-135 CE) led by Simon Bar Kokhba, following which the Jews were banished from the city.  Under the Roman emperor Hadrian, the city was rebuilt as a pagan city and its name changed to Aelia Capitona.  The era of the Jews with Jerusalem as its capital had ended.


The Byzantine Period (324-640 CE)