The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Height: 30.000 cm
Width: 10.300 cm
Length: 18.800 cm
Weight: 1709.700 g
Bronze oil lamp with a leaping ibex
From ancient South Arabia, probably 5th-4th centuries BC
It is not certain where this lamp originated, but with the lit wick floated in oil, it would have cast a beautiful light in a temple, palace or home. Furthermore, it is evidence to the existence of very skilled metallurgists in ancient South Arabia.
Several bronze oil lamps have been discovered that are decorated with an ibex, which was a popular decorative motif of the region. The animal on this example has a hole through the right foreleg which may have been used to suspend an object. A lamp from Shabwa now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, has a similar protome (animal bust) emerging from a handle in the form of a 'Herakles knot'. The protomes are derived from an Achaemenid type and 'Herakles knots' were a popular motif in Greek jewellery, particularly during the second half of the fourth century BC, so it is likely that these lamps date to the fifth or fourth centuries BC.
Examination within the
Department of Scientific Research has revealed more details on how
the lamp was made. The protome and the base were cast separately
and joined with rivets, of which three are still extant; two of
these are of almost pure copper alloy whereas the third appears to
be of iron and probably represents a later repair.