Ancient Oil Lamps from Israel





World Historical Events and Figures

Biblical Events and Figures

Ancient Israel Oil Lamp Evolution

Chalcolithic Age

Copper / Stone Era

"Book of GENESIS"

4500 - 3300 BCE

Sumeria, the world's first civilization in Mesopotamia (Iraq) 3500 BCE.  Wheel invented 3500-3000 BCE.  Writing system evolved 3300 BCE at Sumer.

GENESIS, The Story of Creation - Adam and Eve circa 4000 BCE., however the settlement of Jericho was already established as a settlement with about 2000 inhabitants.

This is the first time pottery bowls are used as oil lamp containers.  No major difference in the shape of the bowl as it was used for other purposes including that of an oil lamp.

Early Bronze Age I-III

Copper / Tin Era

Early Canaanite/Bronze IV

"Book of GENESIS"

3300 - 2300 BCE

2300 -2000 BCE

Time of the IV Dynasty, Egypt and the building of the Pyramids.  Scribes are employed in Egypt. First main settlements in Canaan.  Development of the visual Arts, Music and Architecture in Sumeria.

The "Story of Man" is outlined in GENESIS.  Noah and the Great Flood

c. 2400 BCE.  The Tower of Babel.  Major climatic changes in this region.  Abram's journey from Ur, Mesopotamia

Bowls are now being made for the sole use as oil lamps.  Small bowls are formed and pinched on four sides to act as spouts.  (This is a unique design and appears only in this period EB IV).

Middle Bronze Age II

 Mid Canaanite/Bronze IIAB


            " Books of 


2000 - 1550 BCE

Era of the Development of Civilizations. The Hittite civilization is established (Turkey) 2200 - 700 BCE.  Minoan civilization is established (Create) 2000 - 1400 BCE.  Babylonian civilization (Iraq) 1792 - 539 BCE.  Engraved seals in India.

The period at the end of GENESIS and the beginning of EXODUS.  The time of the Patriarchs / Matriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, & Leah

The introduction of a crude potter's wheel transforms the hand moulded bowls to a more uniform and rounded container for use as an oil lamp.  A single, slightly shaped wick spout is developed from a saucer style.

Late Bronze Age

Late Canaanite/Bronze I-IIB

"Book of EXODUS"

1550 - 1200 BCE

Mycenaean civilization is established (Mainland Greece) 1550 - 1100 BCE. The Assyrian civilization is established (Syria)

1500 - 612 BCE. Syrian scholar compiles an encyclopaedia circa 1270 BCE. 

Circa EXODUS to DEUTERONOMY.  Moses and the Hebrew Exodus - 1200 BCE.  Hebrews enter Canaan - 1200 BCE.  End of economic and cultural prosperity under Egyptian domination.

The pinching of the rim is much more pronounced and a deeper spout is developed.  The saucer shape is becoming more triangular.  All local ceramics are now entirely wheel made.

Iron Age I

Israelite / Iron Age I - IIA

First Temple Period


"Books of SAMUEL & KINGS"

1200 - 930 BCE

Phoenician civilization is established (Lebanon) 1200 - 140 BCE.  Philistine civilization (Gaza) 1200 - 1000 BCE.  It is the beginning of the decline of Egypt.   The Hebrew and Greek alphabet is developed from Phoenicians 1000 BCE.

Beginning of the Jewish / Israelite Monarchy and the Temple Period Era. The Israelite civilization is established 950 BCE - 135 CE. Time of King Saul, David and Solomon: 1050 - 926 BCE

The Building of the Temple - 957 BCE.

The rim becomes wider and flatter with a deep and higher spout.  The tip of the spout is more upright in contrast to the rest of the rim.  The saucer is sculpted to hold a deeper and even reservoir of oil for a more efficient burning method.

             Iron Age II



930 - 586 BCE

Assyrians conquer Israel. The Greek civilization evolves 800 BCE - 30 CE.  The Etruscan civilization appears (Italy) 800 - 200 BCE.  Homeric legends emerge from oral traditions. The Iliad and Odyssey 700 BCE.  First Olympic games held 776 BCE.  Chinese postal system.

Time of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  The story of Daniel. The Division of the Kingdom of Israel 928 BCE.  Elijah the Profit 900 BCE.  King Josiah of Judah 639 - 609 BCE. The Book of DEUTERONOMY.  The destruction of the TEMPLE in 586 BCE.  

Israel divided into two Kingdoms.  The Northern oil lamp has a flatter rim and a strongly pinched spout.  The Southern lamp has a heavy base with a wide rim and regular pinched spout.  Both types however are made with thick, heavy containment walls.                                                                                                                                                 


Persian / Iron Age III

The Second Temple Period


and Babylonian Era



586 - 332 BCE

The development of the Persian civilization (Iran) 559 - 330 BCE.  The time of Socrates and Plato.  The time of Herodotus, the "Father of History".  The building of the Parthenon 442 BCE.  Era of Alexander The Great circa 334 BCE.

Malachai c.460, Ezera & Nehemiah c. 450BCE... Daniel cast into the lion's den 554 BCE Cyrus the Great, King of Persia issues a decree to rebuild the Temple in 536 BCE.  Jerusalem is restored 559 - 530 BCE. The scattering of Ten Tribes of Israel circa 500 BCE. This truly is the beginning of a new era

A higher rim and a higher spout with a shallower well and thicker side walls evolve.  The typical oil lamp has a broad shallow receptacle to hold the oil with a wide sculpted rim and a long narrow even spout for the wick which

allows the flame to burn brighter and with more efficiency.

Hellenistic Age

Hasmonaean/Hellenistic Era


"Books of ESTHER & DANIEL"

332 - 63 BCE

The Colossus of Rhodes is built (Sixth Ancient Wonder of the World) 302 - 290 BCE.  Time of Archimedes.  Building of the Great Library at Alexandria 284 BCE.  The building of the Great Wall of China in 334 BCE.  Paper is invented in China circa 170 BCE.  Books written on papyrus.

The Maccabees and the Chanukah Story 164 BCE.  Time of Hillel, the Spiritual leader of the Jews (author of the Golden Rule).  PROVERBS and the "Song of Solomon".  The Books of ESTHER and DANIEL. The end of the 39 Books of the TANAKH.  The Dead Sea Scrolls era.

To avoid spilling a more closed design is developed. The overall scale of the lamp is much smaller and more refined. The spout is made by folding over the rim so it overlaps and is then pinched downward to form a spout and holding well for the oil.

Early Roman I

Herodian / Early  Roman I



"Books of MATTHEW,


63 BCE - 70 CE

Roman dominance and persecution over Israel and Palestine.  The building of the Coliseum in Rome was finished in 70 CE.  Octavius is proclaimed Emperor and called Augustus Caesar - 27 BCE.  In 44 BCE Caesar is assassinated by Brutus.

The stance and siege at Masada circa 66 - 72 CE.  The Christian Era begins.  The "Age of the Rabbis" 66-70 CE.  Era of Herod the Great. Transformation of the land by Herod.  The Destruction of the Second Temple, 70 CE.

Essentially, all lamps manufactured are now "closed".  This closed type oil lamp is mass produced in a large scale for domestic use.  A separate spout and oil well are moulded without the folding or pinching to form the shape.

Late Roman II

Early Synagogue Period




 and DANIEL"

70 - 324 CE

The peak of the Roman Empire.  Pompeii is destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius.  Hadrian's wall built in 121 CE.

The spread of Christianity world-wide.  Edict of Milan, 313 CE. Roman Emperor Constantine establishes Christian tolerance.

A new period starts without "The TEMPLE" in Jerusalem.  The new age of the Early Synagogues. The period of the Mishnah and Talmud.  The historical Bar-Kokhba revolt against the Romans in 131 - 135 CE.  The Jewish state ends.

Oil lamps are decorated with signs and symbols. All are of the closed-in type.  Most of the product is produced locally.

Multiple nozzles, up to 8 start appearing

There now and continues to be a great variety of shapes and designs choice.

Byzantine Age

Christian / Jewish Era




324 CE - 640 CE

Constantine is slain about 340 CE.  This is the beginning of the Middle Ages 476 CE.

Saxons invade Britain 449 CE.  Era of Attila the Hun 450 CE.  Romans pack-up and leave Britain 426 CE.  Cambridge University was founded in 630 CE.  The mosque in Jerusalem was built on the site of King Solomon's Temple in 637 CE. by Omar.  The Fall of the once mighty Roman Empire in 476 CE. is complete.

There is an explosion of Hebrew liturgical poetry with the compilation of the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. The development and study of Rabbinic, sermonic material evolves (the Midrash). This is the start of the rise of anti-Semitism with active hate-preaching against the Jews by the Christians.  The scriptures translated into Latin by Jerome- 405CE.

Most of all the oil lamps now produced are quite decorative.  The shape of the body is either pear shaped or round.  Handles are an important addition to the lamp style allowing for the portability of the vessel.  Oil lamps with multiple nozzles arranged in a row are now quite common and serve both household and sanctuary purposes.  The design and function has now become sophisticated.





Sumerians: 3500


Egyptians: 3050


Hittites: 2200


Minoans: 2000


Babylonians: 1792


Mycenaeans: 1550


Assyrians: 1500


Philistines: 1200


Phoenicians: 1200


Israelites: 900 BCE


Etruscans: 800


Greeks: 800 BCE


Romans: 753 BCE


Persians: 569 BCE





PARTS 4 & 5