3.1 Herodian lamps

These simple but elegant lamps are the first type that is found mainly in Jewish settlement and, therefore, considered to be used mainly by Jews.


The Herodian lamps have a rounded wheel made body. The nozzle was made separately and then attached to the body, giving it a splayed shape, usually with concave sides. The join between the nozzle and the body of the lamp was then smoothed with a knife (and therefore some call this type “Knife-pared lamps”). The lamps are usually not decorated. The decorations that do appear are incised on the nozzle and comprised of small circles, dotted lines or simple lines.


These lamps are very common throughout all of Israel, especially in places populated by Jews, such as Jerusalem and Judea. Some lamps were also found in Jordan.


The date of these lamps is from the end of the first cent. BCE (during Herod’s reign) to the end of the first cent. CE.


The Herodian lamps were divided into types by D. Barag and M. Hershkovitz in Masada. They claim that the first three types show a chronological development. These types differ mainly by the size of the ledge between the rim and the filling hole. In the early types the decorations are less common then in the later ones. The other types differ in their shape and decorations and do not show a distinct chronological development. Other scholars do not accept this chronological development and argue that they are all from the same time. Some scholars claim that the lamps with a straight profile are later.


HER.1 Rim and wide ledge around the filling hole – This type is characterized by a raised rim situated far from the filling hole, forming a wide ledge around the filling hole. The lamps are larger and cruder than the other types of lamps. The nozzle is usually wide; however, there are some examples with a relatively narrow nozzle. The lamps do not have decorations or handles. The base is usually flat.

Date: this is the earliest type of the Herodian lamps and is dated to the end of Herod’s reign or soon after, e.g. from the end of the first cent. BCE to the beginning of the first cent. CE.

HER.2 Rim and medium ledge around the filling hole - Similar to type HER.1 but the rim is closer to the filling hole. The size of the lamps varies and so does the shape of the nozzle.

Date: chronologically and typologically this type is to be dated between types HER.1 and 3.

HER.3 Rim and small ledge around the filling hole - Similar to types HER.1-2 but the rim around the filling hole is closer to the hole and in some of the lamps does not exist. Some of the lamps have one or more lines incised across their nozzle.

Date: This type is dated to the second half of the first cent. CE.

HER.4 Two rims around the filling hole - This type, represented here by three lamps, is characterized by two rims around the filling hole. The shape of the lamps is similar to types HER.1-3.

HER.5 Large and low body - The body of these lamps is large (85-90 mm wide) and relatively low. The rim around the filling hole is close to the hole and is low and thin, like in type HER.3.

Date: this type is dated, because of its resemblance to type HER.3, to the Great Revolt  (66-74 CE) and soon after.


HER.6 Straight sides with rim around shoulders – The sides of the lamps of this type are straight and end with a rim surrounding the shoulders, which are relatively flat and undecorated. On some of the lamps there is a small hole above the filling hole, whose purpose is unclear. The nozzle is usually decorated with incised lines and circles.

Date: this type is one of the later types and is dated to the end of the Great Revolt (66-74 CE).

HER.7 Multiple nozzles – The multiple nozzle lamps vary in shape and size. The lamps presented here can be divided into five groups. The first group has two wick holes in one nozzle. The second group is composed of lamps with a regular Herodian body, but with two or four nozzles. The third group has a large body with a “tower” in the middle. The last group is a ring shaped lamp.

HER.8 Lamps with a loop handle – The characteristic feature of the lamps in this type is the large loop handle. The lamps are similar in shape to the first three types. Some of the multiple nozzle lamps also have loop handles, but were classified above, according to their nozzles.


HER.9 These rare lamps are a transition between the Herodian lamps and the Daroma lamps. They also have some similarities to the Jerusalem lamps (JERU.1). Their shape is similar to type HER.2. 


HER.10 This unique lamp differs from the Herodian lamps and is brought here because it is dated to the same period. It has a long nozzle and a round high body. The special feature of the lamp is its very high rim around the filling hole. The rim’s purpose might be to hold on it another vessel with oil, which would drip into the lamp, thereby extending the lighting time. This filling method is mentioned in the Mishna (Shabbat 2:4). This type of lamp is found mainly in the north, although one was found in Jerusalem.

3.2 “Jerusalem” lamps

The main characteristic of these types is the black color of the clay. These lamps were burned without oxygen, thus giving them the black color. The lamps are well made and are of high quality.


These lamps can be divided into two main groups: The first group (Jeru.1-Jeru.4) is wheel made and is similar in shape to the Herodian lamps. This group is sub-divided according to the division made for the Herodian lamps. The second group (Jeru.5-Jeru.6) is mold made and is similar to the Daroma lamps. This group was divided according to the number of nozzles the lamps have. It should be noted that some scholars ascribe the Herodian shape black lamps to the Herodian type and leave only the Daroma shape lamps as a special type.


This special type is found mainly in Judea and especially in the vicinity of Jerusalem. The few examinations done on lamps of this type reveal that they were manufactured in the area of Jerusalem. Hence, this type is called “Jerusalem” lamps.


Date: The two groups reflect a chronological development. The Herodian shape “Jerusalem” lamps are earlier and date, like the Herodian lamps, from the end of the first cent. BCE until the middle of the first cent. CE. The Daroma shape lamps are dated to the second half of the first cent. CE.

JERU.1 Herodian shape with no handle - Similar to types HER.1-3. The lamps usually have a small nozzle, sometimes decorated with an incised line and small circles. Around the filling hole there is a rim.

JERU.1 Herodian shape with loop handle - Similar to Herodian type HER.8. These lamps have a broad loop handle and a small nozzle, sometimes decorated with an incised line and small circles.

JERU.1 Daroma shape - These lamps have the same shape as the Daroma lamps. The nozzle has volutes on its sides and the body is round. They are decorated with floral designs, similar to those on the Daroma lamps. These lamps are of special interest since they reflect Jewish art during the later Second Temple Period.

JERU.2 Two nozzle lamp - The shape of the lamp is similar to the Daroma lamps but with two nozzles.


JERU.3 Ring shaped lamp - Only fragments of this type are known. The fragments are part of a ring with nozzles all around.

3.3 “Daroma” lamps

One of the most interesting groups of lamps in the catalog is the type called “Daroma”, referring to its manufacture area as it is called in the Mishna - “Daroma” (Aramaic for “South”). This area includes the southern part of Judea (the south western part of the Hebron hills), especially the area of Beth Guvrin. Today we know that these lamps were made in several places throughout Israel and the types attempt to divide them accordingly. However, since the source of the lamps is unknown the division is uncertain.


The lamps’ nozzle is usually winged, often with two volutes flanking its sides. This feature also appears on Roman lamps from this period. Some of the lamps have two small circles on sides of the wick hole. The filling hole is large as are the shoulders, leaving enough room for decorations. The base is usually a very low ring. The handle, as described below, differs according to the area of manufacture.


The lamps are usually decorated in two places – on the nozzle and around the shoulders. The decoration on the nozzle includes one main motif. Some of the lamps (especially type D.5) are decorated all around the filling hole, leaving the nozzle plain. The decorations consist of a large variety of designs and motifs, which include geometric designs, floral motifs, Jewish symbols, agricultural tools, jewelry, and craftsmen’s tools. The decorations testify that these lamps were manufactured and used by Jews.


Date: The “Daroma” lamps are dated to the first cent. and the first half of the second cent CE.

D.1 Southern lamps – This type, which comprises the largest group of the “Daroma” lamps in the collection, is typical of the southern part of Judea, especially around Beth Guvrin. The “Daroma” lamps were first found in this area, and therefore the name.

The clay is usually fine and the lamps have very thin sides. The end of the nozzle is bow shaped and the wick hole is usually surrounded with a low rim. On the top part of the nozzle there is one or two vertical lines. The nozzle is usually decorated with one main motif. The shoulders are decorated with a large variety of motifs and Jewish symbols. The most indicative characteristic of the lamps from this area is the handle, which is pierced from both sides without a hole. However, some of the lamps have perforated handle. The lamps of this type vary in several ways, which suggests the possibility of a finer division among them. A special group, among the “Daroma” lamps, is the square lamps, which are unique to this area.

The large number of lamps are sorted according to the motifs appearing on them: Amphorae, altars, floral motifs, geometrical motifs and miscellaneous. At the end there are several variants, identified by their shape and size. The first variant comprises of small lamps with out decorations or with a single motif, such as volutes or a rim. The second variant comprises of small round lamps with a rounded nozzle. The shoulders are decorated with leaves. The third variant is characterized by its round shape and the fourth variant is characterized by its square shape. These lamps are decorated with a variety of motifs. The last variant has features of both the “Daroma” lamps and the round Roman lamps (R.2). The shape is parallel to the “Daroma” lamps but the decorations are parallel to the Roman lamps (astragals or ovolo band). These lamps are round and cruder than the other lamps.

D.2 Judean Desert lamps –The lamps manufactured in the Judean desert differ from the southern lamps, the end of the nozzle is usually straight and has three lines crossing the top part or no lines. The lamps with three lines are decorated around the filling hole, while the lamps without the lines are decorated around the top of the filling hole. The handles are usually perforated.


D.3  Samaria Hills and the Coastal Plain lamps – The most distinguished character of this type is the cone shaped knob handle. The lamps are cruder than the southern lamps. The decorations are usually around the filling hole and encircled by a rim. In some of the lamps the layout of the decorations is parallel to the Southern lamps, i.e. around the upper part of the shoulders. The decorations consist of a limited number of designs, mainly a triangular leaf design and an egg and dart design. These lamps were found in two areas – in the Samaria Hills and along the northern coast of Israel.


D.4 Galilean lamps – The lamps from northern Israel have a chronological sub-division. The early lamps are parallel to the Herodian lamps, but are mold made. They are undecorated, except for a low rim around the outside of the shoulders. The later lamps have long nozzles, which in some examples were attached to the body. The lines across the nozzle are usually arched. The decorations surround the filling hole and have a rim and usually also a circle of dots. The decorations consist of circles, volutes and geometric designs.


D.5 Large lamps with shoulders decorated in a circle – This homogenous group is not yet related to one potters’ workshop. However, it seems that they were made in one location because of their common features, which do not parallel any of the above designated Types; therefore this group is classified as a separate type. All the lamps are finely made and decorated around the filling hole with floral or geometric motifs. Most of the lamps are large and have a perforated handle.


D.6 Phoenician lamps – These lamps are found mainly in southern Lebanon and along the northern coast of Israel. They are sometimes referred to as “De’baal” Lamps, after the site where a large number of these lamps was found. The general shape of the lamps is parallel to the southern lamps. The nozzle is usually triangular and sometimes round. It is decorated with a single motif, mostly a volute or a rosette. The shoulders are decorated with a floral design or a branch. Most of the lamps have a perforated handle. The flat base may be marked by one or two grooves, forming a disk or a ring base. Potters’ marks appear on some of the lamps (see nos. 352.


3.4 Lamps from Jerash

The Jerash lamps, manufactured in Jerash (Gerasa), closely resemble the “Daroma” lamps. A large group of these lamps were found in a potters shop excavated in Jerash. A limited number of Jerash lamps were found in several sites in Israel (Beit-Guvrin, Nazareth, Caesarea etc.). The lamps’ shape is Parallel to the “Daroma” lamps, with the bow shaped nozzle and round body. The clay is fine and sometimes with a red slip. The sides of the lamp are thick. The lamps are decorated on the nozzle with a single motif. The most popular motif is a single leaf, usually a grape leaf and sometimes a fig leaf. The profile of the shoulders is curved. The shoulder decorations are composed of a large variety of motives, including floral and geometrical designs, vessels, symbols etc.


3.5 Discus Lamps

The lamps in this chapter all have distinct Roman features. The types differ from each other and therefore they will not be discussed as a group.

R.1 Imperial lamps – These lamps were probably locally made but resemble the Imperial lamps classified by Broneer as type XXIII. The lamps have a rounded nozzle with double volutes on it. The shoulders are very narrow and are sometimes decorated with plain rims all around. The discus is sunken and is decorated with floral designs, figures or a scene. Handles are extremely rare.

Date: First and second cent. CE.


R.2 Local round lamps with decorated discus – These lamps are very common in the Late Roman Period and are found throughout Israel. This type Parallels to Broneer XXV. The lamps have a round body with a small round nozzle, which is usually flanked by two volutes. The shoulders are narrow and decorated with ovolo bands or double axe designs. The discus is sunken and decorated with a large variety of motifs and designs. Some lamps have a broken discus, probably because of religious-purity reasons. 

Date: Second and the third cent. CE.

R.3 Round lamps with decorated discus and a perforated handle – Similar to type R.3, with the addition of a perforated handle. The lamps are known from the Western part of the Roman Empire and were copied in the East.

Date: Second and the first half of the third cent. CE.


3.6 Egyptian lamps

Two types of Egyptian lamps are presented in the catalogue – the frog lamps and the round lamps with a decorated discus. Some of these types were found in Israel but probably made in Egypt.  

EGY.1 Round lamps with decorated discus –These lamps are round shaped with a small nozzle. The narrow shoulders are usually plain. Some are decorated with double or triple rims.  The sunken discus is decorated with a single motif, including busts of gods, Menorahs and Monogrammed Cross. The handle is high and usually has two lines decorating it.  

Date: 3rd or 4th cent. CE.

EGY.1 Neo-Hellenistic Frog lamps – There are several types of frog lamps, however, the two lamps presented in the catalogue are both from the same type – Neo Hellenistic. The nozzle is small and has two volutes on the sides, with a floral decoration in between. The shoulders are decorated with geometric or floral designs and an element of the frog’s anatomy. The base is usually surrounded by a groove. On some of the bases there is a potters mark.

3.7 Nabatean lamps

Nabatean lamps are divided into several types, from which only one is represented in this catalogue. These lamps have thick sides and a short nozzle, which is decorated with volutes. Around the shoulders there is usually a linear band. Instead of a handle there is usually a small rosette.

Date: The type represented here is dated to the first cent. CE or early second cent. CE.