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Oil lamp

oil lamp

An oil lamp Hannukah menorah created in Israel circa 1948 by Pal-BellAn oil lamp is a simple vessel used to produce light continuously for a period of time from a fuel source. The use of oil lamps extends from prehistory to the present day. While a basic form of lighting prior to the era of widespread electric lighting, oil lamps today are popular for mood lighting, as an alternative to candles, or as an alternate source of emergency lighting when electricity is not available. Many oil lamps provide a small wheel that when turned, moves the wick up and down so that the user can adjust the light produced. Some lamps sold now are both the traditional farmer's lantern, made mostly of metal, with a glass chimney, and the old-fashioned hurricane lamps, made mostly of glass, with only the wick holder assembly made of metal.

Olive oil lamps continued in wide use in countries around the Mediterranean Sea well into the 19th century, with the lamps being mass produced out of metal (most commonly brass or bronze), but otherwise little changed in design from lamps of some 2,000 years earlier. In 1780 the Argand lamp was invented and quickly replaced the ancient form. It was, in turn, replaced by the kerosene lamp in about 1850. In small towns and rural areas these continued in use well into the 20th century. The light given by an olive oil lamp is significantly brighter than a candle, but significantly less than the Argand lamp or the kerosene or paraffin burning lamp.

Oil lamps were used not only for lighting, but also for funerary and votive purposes.

Lamps were used for domestic purposes in homes and for public purposes in temples and public buildings.

By studying the lamp's designs, symbols, structure and decorations, and the material of which it is made, we can identify the age and perhaps the locality of the lamp. The lamp can also give us insights into the culture of its users and their social status.

Occasionally the design of the lamps also reveal the female reproductive system. Indian bronze lamps with a protruding central portion are supposed to project the male genitalia on a female womb with light representing 'origin of life' in most cases.

Oil lamps were made from a wide variety of media like gold, bronze, silver, stone and terra-cotta. The most commonly used material was fired clay; many terra-cotta and bronze lamps have been unearthed. In most cases, the production and distribution of lamps was local, but in some instances they were produced by factories and exported to different areas.

The usual size of a terra-cotta oil lamp is 7-10 cm in length and 3 cm in depth, with the walls being around 0.5 cm thick. Lamps with more than one nozzle are usually larger in size.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com

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