Dura Europos

This webpage illustrates small sample of the moldmade oil lamps recovered during the archaeological excavation of Dura Europos in Syria. These are color and black-and-white photographs that were digitized by the Yale University Art Museum. Baur (1947:1) reports that 459 lamps were registered during the excavations from 1931 to 1937 and divided between Yale University and the Damascus museum; a uncertain number of undecorated lamps were left at the expedition dig house. Many thanks to the staff of the Yale Art Museum for allowing access to the excavation archives.



Lamp reg. no. 1933.350 from excavation area of L7-W1. Length = 9.4 cm, width = 7.9 cm and height = 2.8 cm. Baur (1947:54) identifies the molded design on the discus as Hermes (Mercury) in the Polycleitan stance. "He holds a large caduceus in his left hand; his chlamys fastened over his chest falls behind him, the end caught up over the left shoulder and wrapped around the left arm. Behind him is his ram running to left." Baur suggested the image on the right side of the discus was a pile of stones arranged in a pyramidal form with an object resembling an altar on top; another possibility is that it is a shrine or temple in the distance.



Lamp reg. no. 1932.1374 from excavation area C7-a4 at Dura Europos. Length = 9.5 cm, width = 7.8 cm and height = 2.4 cm. Baur (1947:54) identifies the molded design on the discus of the lamp as a man leading a pack camel; the clothing of the man is identified as either an exomis or a chiton.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4747 excavated from area M8-W6 at Dura Europos. A damaged lamp representing a loaded camel being led by a driver.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4750 excavated in Area M7-W3 at Dura Europos. Another broken example of a clay oil lamp decorated with the camel caravan motif.



Lamp reg. no. 1932.4961 found in excavation area K8 - SW angle at Dura Europos. Length = 7.8 cm, width = 6.8 cm and height = 2.2 cm. Baur (1947:47-8, Plate VII.293, Figure 18) identifies the decoration on the discus as "a vine stalk from which grow downward two large bunches of grapes and two leaves and upward two leaves with four clusters each of three grapes so distributed that two clusters are between upright leaves and two growing from the end of the stalk."



Lamp reg. no. 1932.1376 and excavated in area G1-43 at Dura Europos. Preserved length with handle = 9.4 cm, width = 5.9 cm and height = 2.1 cm. Baur (1947:56) identifies the decoration on the discus as a "he" figure that holds a bowl in his left hand and a short staff in his right hand. One parallel to the stance of the figure is the mosaic portraying women athletes in the "Chamber of the Ten Maidens" at Piazza Armerina, in Central Sicily. The soft contours of the athlete's body seems more suggestive of a woman than a man. For example, look at a portion of the mosaic at Piazza Armerina



Lamp matrix (used to create a mold) reg. no. 1938.4739 excavated in area N8 at Dura Europos. This matrix that would have created a lamp mold that produced the design of an athlete exercising.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4748 from excavation area G5 - NE at the site of Dura Europos. Length = 9.1 cm, width = 7.6 cm and height = 2.6 cm. Baur (1947:55-5, Figure 23) identifies the decoration on the discus as a "crude draped bust of Helios facing with seven rays." Another posibility is that the representation is of Irahibol, the Palmyrene sun god. A relief discovered in the Temple of Gadde in block H1 at Dura Europos shows Irahibol with rays extending around his head. For example, here is the relief of Irahibol



Lamp reg. no. - Helios or Irahibol.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4736 excavated from area G1-111 at Dura Europos. Length = 9.2 cm, width = 7.7 cm and height = 2.4 cm. Baur (1947:53) identifies the design on the discus of the lamp as "Aeneas carrying Anchises on his shoulder and accompanied by the boy Ascanius. Both Aeneas and Anchises wear a pointed cap, the pilos. The filling hole is between the legs of Aeneas." He dates the lamp the middle of the third century AD. Ironically, I am not convinced that Baur correctly identified the scene. The conical hat figures closely resemble the priests portrayed in the Temple of Bel wall painings. For example, repainting of the priest Konon offering a sacrifice.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4737 from excavation area G5-28 at Dura Europos. Length = 9.4 cm, width = 7.7 cm and height = 2.5 cm. Baur (1947:53) identifies the design on the discus of the lamp as "Aeneas carrying Anchises on his shoulder and accompanied by the boy Ascanius. Both Aeneas and Anchises wear a pointed cap, the pilos. The filling hole is between the legs of Aeneas." He dates the lamp the middle of the third century AD.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4751 from excavation area X3 at Dura Europos. Length = 7,2 cm, width = 6.2 cm and height = 2.3 cm. Baur (1947:55, plate VIII.332) identifies the design on the discus of the lamp as Aphrodite between two Erotes; it is likely to be the protrayal of the birth of the goddess.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4741 excavated in Area Street G at Dura Europos. Length = 7.4 cm, width = 6.5 cm and height = 2.2 cm. Baur (1947:50) identifies the design on the discus as an erotic scene similar to lamps from Ephesus. He dates the lamp to the third century AD. It is ironic that none of the "erotic" lamps from Dura are illustrated in the report, but they are described. The lamp is worn; the design appears to be a figure reclining on a bed or coach with their lover entwined on top.



Lamp reg. no. I101 excavated from Street D at Dura Europos. Length = 7.5 cm, width = 6.5 cm and height = 2.3 cm. Baur (1947:51) records that this lamp was part of the division of finds that went to Damascus. He notes that the decoration of the discus includes three individuals and a dog to the right of the bed. Erotic lamps and mosaics with three individuals are very uncommon, but do occur at other sites.

 



Lamp reg. no. 481 found during the Street D excavation a Drua Europos. Length = 8.7 cm, width = 7.6 cm and height = 2.3 cm. Baur (1947:51) describes the decoration on the discus of the lamp as "the man is seen in back view; the woman lifts her left hand to her hair and wears an anklet on her left foot. The bed is not represented. Tere are two filling-holes, one above and one below the group." He dates this lamp to the third century AD. It should be added to the description that the man uses his right hand to raise the woman's right leg to the height of his head.



Lamp reg. no. - damaged lamp with the same erotic design as Lamp reg. no. 481.



Lamp reg. no. 1932.1357 excavated from area G2-25 at Dura Europos. Length = 7.2 cm, width = 6.3 cm and height = 2.4 cm. Baur (1947:45, Figure 17, Plate VII.281) described the lamp as decorated with a rosette on the concave discus.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4733 (excavated area not recorded in the final publication). Decorated with a rosette on the concave discus (Baur 1947:45, Figure 16, Plate VII.280).



Lamp reg. no. 1932.1367 excavated from area M7-W2 at Dura Europos. Length = 7.4 cm, width = 6.5 cm and height = 2.4 cm. (Baur 1947:32, Figure 11, Plate V.168) described the lamp as decorated with "three concentric circles of globules on top."



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4702 was excavated in Area L7 at Dura Europos. Length = 7.2 cm, width = 6.4 cm and height = 2.4 cm. Baur (1947:33) describes the lamp as decorated with three concentric circles of globules.


Lamp reg. no. 1932.1367 excavated from area G2-5 at Dura Europos. Length = 8.0 cm, width = 6.7 cm and height = 2.5 cm. (Baur 1947:32, Figure 15, Plate VI.252) described the lamp as decorated with "a wreath of clusters of three round tipped leaves tied with a bow knot, and opposite to it near the base of the noozle is a small raised circle with central globule." He dates the lamp to the middle of the third century AD.



Lamp reg. no. 1938.4707 was excavated in Area L70 at Dura Europpos. Length = 7.6 cm, width = 6.7 cm, and height = 2.3 cm. Baur (1947:37) describes this lamp as undecorated. There is a raised ring around the outer edge of the lamp and another raised ring around the fill hole.

Lamp reg. no. 1938.4678 was excavated in Area L7-W at Dura Europos. Length = 7.5 cm, width = 6.6 cm and height = 2.3 cm. Baur (1947:30, Plate V.149) describes this lamp as decorated with a rosette that has 29 petals.

Lamp reg. no. 1938.4702 was excavated in Area L7 at Dura Europos. Length = 7.2 cm, width = 6.4 cm and height = 2.4 cm. Baur (1947:33) describes the lamp as decorated with three concentric circles of globules.

Lamp reg. no. 1938.4681 was excavated in Area L7-W10 at Dura Europos. Length = 7.4 cm, width = 6.6 and height = 2.2 cm. Baur (1947:30) describes the lamp as decorated with a rosette that has 24 petals.


Lamp reg. no. H302 from the Necropolis Trench 1 at Dura Europos; part of the division of finds that went to the Damascus museum. Length = 9.4 cm, width = 4.5 cm and height = 2.5 to 3.2 cm. Baur (1947:58, plate IX.347) draws a parallel between this lamp and a better preserved example (in the Damascus museum) as representing Hermes holding a purse and caduceus. He notes that the lamp has traces of red paint and was most certainly not made at Dura.

Another way to interpret the iconography is to see the figure as a Semitic god and not Hermes. The object in the left hand of the figure appear to be a crescent and not a caduceus. For example, here is a parallel of the crescent with the Stele from the Temple of Atargatis.


Baur, Paul Victor Christopher
1947 The Excavations at Dura Europos: The Lamps. Yale University Press, New Haven.


Webpage constructed 17 April 2015