The Virgins’ Lamps: Shine Beautiful!

The light of Christ shines beautiful for all of us. [Anonymous quote inscribed on a Palestinian lamp of the fourth–fifth century a.d.]

In the ancient Mediterranean world, hand-sized lamps made of baked clay were used to light one’s way after dark. The equivalent of the modern-day light bulb, clay lamps were also an essential part of the ancient household and are among the most common articles found during archaeological excavations. Their nozzles held a burning wick fueled by oil, and they cast a dancing, flickering light like a candle or lantern. The essential parts of the lamp structure were a reservoir or cavity to hold the fuel, usually olive oil, and a wick rest or feature to anchor the wick, which could be a length of tightly twisted flax or other fiber. The reservoirs held sufficient oil to keep the lamp burning throughout an entire night, although the wick had to be shifted every few hours.

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