The International Ez Zantur Project

Preliminary Report on the 1998 Swiss-Liechtenstein excavations at ez Zantur

by Bernhard Kolb (with contributions by Laurent Gorgerat and Matthias Grawehr)

XI. Ez Zantur III: An ensemble of lamps from room 121

An ensemble of lamps was found in Room 121 on site EZ III. The latest coin found on the floor dates from the reign of Commodus (180–191 AD) and provides a terminus post quem for the abandonment of the room at the end of the 2nd century AD. The evidence of fine and coarseware supports this date. This discovery provides the opportunity to survey a part of the repertoire of lamp types in circulation at the end of the 2nd century AD at Petra. This ensemble deserves special attention because it may throw light on the otherwise poorly understood pottery chronology of thre Nabataean/Palestinian region during the 2nd and 3rd century AD.

Nabatean lamps of the Negev Type 1

Two lamps have been recovered nearly intact, and two additional fragments belong to one or two other examples. These sherds are of the variety of the well attested Nabataean lamps – Negev’s Type 1 Negev 1986: 134ff; other designations: Elgavish 1962, type 4; ’Amr 1987: 30, type 2. . Its chronological range is generally set within the 1st century AD, although it persists into the first half of the 2nd century AD. Lamps of Type 1 are found for example in the destruction level of EZ I dating to the early 2nd century AD Stucky 1996: 21. , as well as slightly later in the destruction level of Khirbet edh Dharih Villeneuve 1990: 370–371, 375. .

Imported lamp of the 2nd century AD

It was possible to reconstruct one lamp from 14 fragments (Fig. 17). Only a few sherds are missing, most conspicuously the nozzle. The body of the lamp is pear-shaped, and its width of 6.4 cm with a preserved length of 6.8 cm is average for a lamp of this type. The shoulder is decorated with a plain impressed motif. The handle is positioned mainly on the shoulder, although it overlaps slightly onto the disk of the lamp. It is not pierced, but it is decorated with one groove. Three concentric circles are pressed into the bottom of the lamp. The clay is pink in colour (Munsell 7.5YR 8/4) with white grits. No traces of a slip survive.

Fig. 17b: EZ III. Room 121. Imported lamp of the 2nd century AD (photo: O. Jaeggi)
Fig. 17b: EZ III. Room 121. Imported lamp of the 2nd century AD (photo: O. Jaeggi)

This lamp can be placed in the type commonly called „northern stamped“ Sussmann 1989, Lapp 1997; other names: Avigad 1976: 184–189, Beth Shearim; Fernandez 1983: Types L 10.1, L 10.2, L 14. , which is found in Northern Palestine. The center of production for these lamps was most likely in Galilee. The example in discussion is definitely an import, not only because the clay is uncommon to this area, but also because the lamp represents the only discovery of this type in Petra to date. The subtype to which this example belongs is the earliest of the „northern stamped“ class and can be dated to the second half of the 2nd century AD Sussmann 1989: 23–55. .

Local lamp of the later 2nd century AD

The third lamp is almost completely intact (Figs. 18). Its form is almond-shaped; the handle and nozzle are placed slightly over the circle of the shoulder, but remain fully integrated into the design. The profile of the lamp consists of a large flat base, steep sides and, due to this, a relatively flat top. The shoulder rises in a slightly convex curve and the disk forms a shallow round concavity. The nozzle extends a little bit higher than the body. The handle lies on the shoulder and is a steep amorphous knob; it is unpierced and lacks a rim. It is reinforced on the side with a small support. At the transition from the shoulder to the disk there are three raised fillets. The outer and the inner fillet meet at the nozzle, forming a channel-like composition. The base of the lamp is flat and undecorated. The filling-hole is slightly off center and measures approximately 0.9 cm in diameter. The diameter of the entire lamp is 6.4 cm; the length is 8.2 cm. The clay is light red in colour (Munsell 10R 6/8) and relatively coarse in texture. Traces of a red slip (Munsell 10R 5/8) survive.

Fig. 18b: EZ III. Room 121. Local lamp of the later 2nd century AD (photo: O. Jaeggi)
Fig. 18b: EZ III. Room 121. Local lamp of the later 2nd century AD (photo: O. Jaeggi)

To date, this type is not well attested in Petra. A possible example of the same type was excavated in tomb 64B in Petra Zayadine 1982: 371. . Four additional fragments found hitherto in the excavations at Ez Zantur (loci 1071/1135/1146, 1206), as well as the one intact lamp originating from the Siq at Petra (Keller forthcoming), prove that this type is a local product. The fact that local features figure in the production means that this type can not be compared directly with lamp types outside Petra or Nabataea. Roman lamps Broneer 1930: 83ff.: Type XXV; Bailey 1980: 293, 336: Types O or Q. can be considered a common archetype. The example under consideration is typologically closer to the well-attested production from Petra of the late 1st century AD i. e., Rosenthal and Sivan 1978: 97f. , than to the again well-attested Petraean-Early Byzantine lamps of the 4th century AD Zanoni 1996: 319. . Interestingly, the lamps of the type discovered in room 121 did not appear in the destruction level dating to the end of the 1st or the beginning of the 2nd century AD. The appearance of this type should thus probably be placed approximately in the middle of the 2nd century AD; the lamp exposed in room 121 would then have been buried in the course of the 2nd half of the 2nd century. This ensemble contains, beside the two Negev 1 lamps, already out of fashion in the 2nd century AD, an imported example from Palestine as well as one local product. Both lamp types represent a part of the repertoire of lamps typical for the end of the 2nd century AD.

It is striking that this ensemble of lamps does not include any specimen of the locally produced Petraean lamps which are close to the „Transjordanian round lamps“ Lapp 1997: 49; Rosenthal and Sivan 1978: 96; Khairy 1990: 143, Nr. 39; another nice and intact example with floral design from the same site is on display in the museum at Petra. . The typical feature of these lamps is the enlarged filling-hole, or, put another way, the diminished disc; a development that foreshadows the Petraean-Early Byzantine lamps in the 4th century AD. Lamps of this type often bear a stylised floral design on the rim. Aside from the stylistic tendency mentioned above and the absence of this typ of lamp in the ensemble of Room 121 may indicate that they can be dated to the 3rd century AD. However, if one does not wish to overstress the evidence, a production of these lamps cannot be ruled out in the late 2nd century AD, as a parallel development to the aforementioned examples.

Matthias Grawehr
Schweizerisch-Liechtensteinische Ausgrabungen in Petra der Universität Basel
Schönbeinstrasse 20
4056 Basel