"Each part of the world recapitulates, shares in and experiences the history of the world as a whole"
Fernand Braudel

Copper Lamp

2nd century BC
Dura Europos
7,2 cm x 22,3 cm

Since the beginning of man, he dreams of a light that breaks the gloominess of darkness. So he thought about ways to help him with overcoming the darkness. At the beginning, he used the basic torch. But then he invented the lamp. In its simplest form, the lamp is a plate with a curve in its rim to form the siphon for placing the wick. This more ornate example is dated to the second century BC.

This object is a copper lamp designed in the shape of an African human head. The hair and facial features attempt to realistically portray an African head, and the lamp function is added by placing the siphon at the mouth and the handle at the back of the head. At the top of the head, there is an opening to pour the oil in. The lamp’s handle has a heart-like design and it is supported by a chain, which indicates the lamp could be both hand held and attached to a hook.

From this lamp we can conclude that the Africans existed as part of classical cultural expression and Roman society and those artists liked to represent them. It may be that the artist was inspired by a philosophical allegory: from the heart of darkness the light is resurrected.

see also