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Pottery lamps were used as a source of light by all Romans.Artificial light was common throughout the Roman Empire, and pottery oil lamps offered an alternative to candle light.The number of lamps found in Britain is much lower than in other parts of the Empire and this is thought to be due to the cost of importing olive oil.Oil, made from olives or other vegetables, was a valuable resource and as such the cost involved in burning oil, which could otherwise be used as fuel, is thought to have been too great for widespread use of the lamps in Roman Britain.Candles, made from beeswax or tallow, were cheaper to buy but do not survive as well.Pottery lamps functioned by adding oil through the central hole, and burning a wick placed into the nozzle area.Wicks were commonly made from pieces of linen, but could also be made from flax or papyrus.Although there are some known areas in Britain of lamp manufacture, many of the lamps found here would have been imported from areas such as Italy, Gaul (Ancient France), Germany and North Africa.
They could be handmade, wheel made, or made by mould.
The use of moulds became increasingly popular, but again consisted of two different methods.
Use of these lamps in Britain was especially popular amongst the army.
Pottery oil lamps were made in three different ways.
Once made, a mould could be used to create many lamps, which meant that lamps could be easily and directly reproduced.
This also ensured that the manufacturing of lamps could be extremely efficient and organised, producing large volumes of goods with a standardised quality. Roman lamp makers preferred the use of plaster moulds but both types had advantages and disadvantages.