Foot-shaped lamp

Foot-shaped lamp


1st c. AD

Empúries (L’Escala – Alt Empordà)

When it turned dark, the inhabitants of Emporiae lit lamps. They were mostly moulded of clay. There are currently well over a thousand documented examples in Empúries alone, as well as countless fragments that cannot be reconstructed. It has been possible to date the wide variety of clay lamps scattered throughout the Roman world with great precision. There are countless workshops and artisans identified with their respective marks who made these eminently useful objects that also bore a wide variety of decorative motifs.

The one we present here, however, is not clay, but a bronze lamp. It represents a right foot up to the height of the ankle and wearing a sandal. The spout through which the wick protruded was located beneath the toes. The interior, now empty, was the oil tank. A handle with small whorls attached above the heel allowed it to be held and moved from place to place. It is in an excellent state of preservation and only missing the lid that protected the tank. The toes and sandal straps are rendered with great realism. Parallels with clay lamps of a similar type allow it to be dated to the 1st century AD.

Bronze lamps were made with the lost wax process, often in several pieces that were finally welded together. This meant that practically no two were identical, because the moulds were destroyed in the manufacturing process.

As we said, more than a thousand clay lamps are known from Empúries. In bronze, however, we only have two examples and a few fragments of others. We are no longer talking about purely utilitarian objects; these lamps were prestige pieces. A status symbol, our lamp reveals a world of economic and social power, a world of luxury in the Municipium Emporiae, the Empúries of the 1st century.

Copyright © 2024 Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya Departament de Cultura - Generalitat de Catalunya