Shelf 4: Before Edison... Oil Lamps
Like electric lights today, baked clay lamps with wicks fueled by olive oil were made for use in households, shops, and government buildings everywhere in the Ancient Near East. Their shapes show the styles of different cultures, and their decorations tell a story of the changing ideologies and religions of the Holy Land. Expensive metal lamps were only used by the upper classes, so clay lamps typically provided families the only source of light after sunset. Often found among household debris, they also appear in tombs, presumably placed there to light the passage to the Underworld. Some of these lamps show only a little darkening around the hole for the olive-oil fueled wick, and thus may have been used just once, in the funeral ceremony.