The International Ez Zantur Project

Preliminary Report on the 1999 Swiss-Liechtenstein excavations at ez Zantur

by Bernhard Kolb and Daniel Keller

VIII. Ez Zantur IV: Glass lamps from ez Zantur

A few small glass fragments found on ez Zantur are of particular interest, because they are early examples of glass lamps of the late Roman and early Byzantine Near East. Their contexts allow not only exact dating, but, moreover, they give some indication of their original use.

Fragments of beaker-shaped vessels with a round, flaring rim, a conical or slightly rounded body and three small handles (Fig. 15,1) belong to a first group of glass lamps. Their use as lamps is suggested by the very narrow opening between handle and body of the vessel, which merely left room for a kind of suspension. Further confirmation for their supposed function is given by the three handles which assured balance. In conclusion, they were used as hanging lamps, most probably in the rooms in which they were excavated. They were found in the layers immediately above the floors in rooms 11 and 19 (Nos. 1–3) of the mansion on EZ IV (Fig. 2). Constantine coins, datable pottery finds and fragments of glass which accompanied the lamp sherds in the same layer, show that the destruction of the building was caused by the earthquake of 363 AD . This firm sealing date is remarkably early for glass lamps. In fact, they seem to be among the earliest examples of a type of lighting which became common during Byzantine and Islamic times.

Fig. 15: EZ I/IV. late Roman glass lamps (drawings: D. Keller)
Fig. 15: EZ I/IV. late Roman glass lamps (drawings: D. Keller)

Fragments of a further glass lamp of the same type (No. 4) found in the upper strata of rooms 11, 12 and 14, as well as another rim sherd in room 16 (No. 5) deserve special attention. Together with two other rim sherd of this shape found on the site EZ I in mixed contexts (Nos. 6–7), these fragments may represent a shape of glass lamps distinctive of Petra. Except the latter fragments from mixed contexts all remains of this type were found in the destruction layers of the earthquake of 363, and they do not reappear anymore in later contexts Neither in the late Roman houses on EZ I, destroyed in the early fifth century AD, nor in the shops on the southern side of the Colonnaded Street, which were in use until the 5th and 6th century AD, nor in the byzantine monastry on Jabal Haroun has this type of glass lamp been recorded. . We may conclude that they represent, at least in the Petra region a specific type of the mid fourth century.

On other archaeological sites of the Eastern Mediterranean such lamps are either completely absent – as in the churches of Palestine and Transjordan – or, alternatively, only a small amount of sherds is documented. The same is true for the western part of the Roman Empire One was found in a church at Como (Italy), another one at Luni (Uboldi 1995: 108 Fig. 2,6–7). >. Only at Sardis (Turkey) such glass lamps seem to be present in a few fragments from the Byzantine shops and churches, but they date between the fifth and seventh centuries von Saldern 1980: 47–49 No. 246–248. 250 Pl. 11,246–247. 23, 246. 250. . Similarly late are comparable rim sherds from Gerasa, one from a context of the fourth to fifth century Meyer 1988: 191 Fig. 6T. , and a second one dated to the fifth or early sixth century Dussart 1998: 82 No. BVI.1211 Pl. 14,16. Among the late Roman and byzantine glass finds from the excavations of the Hippodrome at Gerasa there were no fragments of such glass lamps (this glass will be studied by the author under the supervision of I. Kehrberg). . In tomb 217 on the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem occupied between the mid fourth and the mid fifth centuries a complete specimen of this type was discovered. This glass lamp, however, has a wick holder Bagatti-Milik 1958: 148 No. 11 Fig. 35,11 Pl. 40,125,15. For the date of this tomb: Kuhnen 1989: Beilage 3 No. 98. , a later feature of which there are no traces on the aforementioned rims and handles from EZ IV. Accordingly, the early glass lamps from ez Zantur have to be reconstructed without a wick holder.

A fragment with a tubular wick holder placed on the centre of the concave bottom, was uncovered in room 2 on site EZ I (No. 13 Fig. 15,4). Unquestionably, it belongs to the latest occupation of EZ I which was terminally disrupted by a second earthquake in the early fifth century, most probably in 419 Kolb 1996: 51. 82. . Glass lamps with wick holders therefore appear in Petra as early as the beginning of the fifth century, contradictory to the later date assigned elsewhere Stern 1999: 480. . Rim sherds of the above described type, however, are not present in later contexts anymore. Instead, a type with outfolded rim, three small handles and a conical (Nos. 9–12 Fig. 15,3) or slightly rounded body (No. 8 Fig. 15,2) is recorded. On EZ I such rim sherds were found in rooms 8 and 28, which were destroyed in the above mentioned earthquake in the early fifth century Kolb 1996: 51. 65. 71. 89. . The simultanuous appearance of of outfolded rims and wick holders suggest a new type combining both features. This type is also documented in rooms XXIX and XXX of the recently exposed shops on the Colonnaded Street which were abandoned in the early or mid fifth century For the date: Fiema 1998: 415. 420. . Additional fragments of this type of glass lamp were found in the last phase of use of rooms XXVI–XXVIII dated to the sixth century For the use of the rooms XXVI–XXVIII until the later 5th to the 6th century: Fiema 1998: 420–421. . The continuous use of these lamps is confirmed by specimens uncovered in the Byzantine monastry on Jabal Haroun The glass finds from the Finnish Jabal Haroun Project will be studied by J. Lindblom (University of Helsinki) and the author. . Therefore, we may assume that glass lamps with outfolded rims, three handles and wick holders were common in the Petra region from the early fifth century onwards.

In search of parallels, two wick holders found at Jalame (Israel) should be mentioned Davidson Weinberg 1988: 85 No. 386–387 Fig. 4–44,386–387 Pl. 4–16,386. . Notably, these were not produced in the local glass factory of the mid fourth century, nor were they found in layers connected to the workshop. Thus they cannot predate the finale phase of occupation at Jalame which is dated by the coins to the early fifth century Davidson Weinberg 1988: 19–21. .

In Palestine and Transjordan, the majority of glass lamps was found in churches Rehovot: Patrich 1988: 134–136 Pl. 12; Nessana: Harden 1962: 84 Nos. 47–50 Pl. 20,47; el-Lejjun: Jones 1987: 627–628 Fig. 135,71. 136,72–73. 76; Gerasa: Baur 1938: 524. 526. 531 No. 17. 29. 49 Fig. 20,376. 21,382. 22,380; Meyer 1986: 263 Fig. 23h; Kehrberg 1986: 379. 381 Nos. 29. 35–38 Fig. 9,29. 35–38; Kehrberg 1998: 431; Shavei Zion: Barag 1967: 68–69 Nos. 21–22 Fig. 16,21–22. – but not exclusively: Specimens from the late Roman forts at en Boqeq and Mezad Tamar en-Boqeq: Gichon 1993: 435 Pl. 51,7–8. 60,28; Mezad Tamar: Erdmann 1977: 100. 112–114 Nos. 3–12 Pl. 1,3–7. , as well as the discussed finds from ez Zantur evidence their use in purely domestic contexts.

The results from the sites EZ I and EZ IV offered revealing insights regarding their everyday use: Unsurprisingly, they were found in dark rooms such as corridor 11 (Nos. 1–3). For the time being, the question of how these lamps were installed remains unanswered. In addition to the main lighting – the hanging lamps – fragments of terracotta lamps evidence the combined use of portable lights Stern 1999: 479; pers. comm. M. Grawehr. .


Glass lamps with rounded outgoing rim

  • EZ IV 91/AQ–AR Abs. 4 FK 3139 room 11
  • four rim sherds with three small handles
  • colorless, slightly greenish glass
  • ø= 10.0 cm
  • height = 3.1 cm
  • Fig. 15,1
  • EZ IV 89/AP Abs. 6 FK 3221 room 11
  • rim sherd with small handle
  • bluish green glass
  • ø= ca. 10.0 cm
  • height = 2.5 cm
  • EZ IV 89/AP Abs. 6 FK 3222 room 19
  • rim sherd and two small handles
  • bluish green glass
  • ø not determinable
  • height = 2.5 cm
  • EZ IV 89–91/AQ Abs. 3 FK 3113 rooms 11, 12 und 14
  • two rim sherds and a small handle
  • colorless, slightly greenish blue glass
  • ø= ca. 8.0 cm
  • height = 3.6 cm
  • EZ IV 88/AN Abs. 4 FK 3192 room 16
  • rim sherd and handle
  • colorless, slightly pale greenish glass
  • ø = ca. 9.0 cm
  • height = 1.2 cm
  • EZ I 99/M Abs. 1 FK 266
  • rim sherd with small handle
  • colorless slightly greenish blue glass
  • ø = ca. 8.0 cm
  • height = 4.9 cm
  • EZ III surface find
  • rim sherd with small handle
  • colorless slightly greenish blue glass
  • ø = ca. 7.0 cm
  • height = 3.8 cm

Glass lamps with outfolded rim

  • EZ I100/P Abs. 5 FK 479 room 28
  • rim sherd with rounded body and small handle
  • bluish green glass
  • ø not determinable
  • height = 3.75 cm
  • Fig. 15,2
  • EZ I 100/N-O Abs. 4 FK 225 room 8
  • rim sherd with conical body
  • colorless, slightly pale green glass
  • ø = ca. 9.0 cm
  • height = 1.6 cm
  • Fig. 15,3
  • EZ I 100/N-O Abs. 4 FK 225 room 8
  • rim sherd
  • bluish green glass
  • ø not determinable
  • height = 0.6 cm
  • EZ I 100/N-O Abs. 3 FK 224 room 8
  • rim sherd
  • bluish green glass
  • ø = 11.4 cm
  • height = 0.9 cm
  • EZ I 100/O Abs. 4 FK 225 room 8
  • rim sherd
  • pale green glass
  • ø = 7.6 cm
  • height = 2.3 cm

Wick-holder of a glass lamp

  • EZ I 102/M Abs. 3 FK 30 room 2
  • lower part of a wick holder
  • greenish blue glass
  • ø = 1.4 – 1.6 cm
  • height = 2.15 cm
  • Fig. 15,4

Daniel Keller
Schweizerisch-Liechtensteinische Ausgrabungen in Petra der Universität Basel
Schönbeinstrasse 20
4056 Basel