Name of Object:

Two steatite (soapstone) oil lamps: a) star-shaped oil lamp; b) triplet oil lamp

Location:

Aqaba, Jordan

Holding Museum:

Aqaba Archaeological Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 2nd century / AD 8th century

Museum Inventory Number:

AM 610-AM 611

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved steatite (technically known as chlorite, commonly known as soapstone).

Dimensions:

a) Height 3.8 cm, diameter 17.8 cm, depth: 2.9 cm; b) Height 5 cm, rib of the triangle 20.2 cm, depth (of each triangle) 2.5 cm, depth (of central circle) 3.5 cm

Period / Dynasty

Umayyad

Provenance:

Unknown, probably Yemen or western Arabia.

Description:

Steatite, known technically as chlorite and commonly known as soapstone, was used for only a few utilitarian stone items, such as these lamps, cooking pots, and incense burners, due to its ability to absorb and conduct heat.

a) A simply decorated saucer-like lamp in the shape of a star with ten triangular nozzles decorated with incised lines and dots. There is a round hole through which oil is poured directly into the reservoir; ten corresponding holes at the bottom of the reservoir are connected to the nozzles.

b) A triplet oil lamp with six nozzles on ribs and angles, three of which are on the rim. Simply decorated with incised lines, it has a round hole in the middle through which oil is poured directly into the reservoir; openings in the reservoir allow oil to travel down the channels and feed the nozzles with oil.

View Short Description

Two steatite oil lamps from Ayla in Aqaba. Steatite, known technically as chlorite and commonly known as soapstone, was used for some utilitarian items due to its ability to absorb and conduct heat, and was usually imported from Yemen or western Arabia.

How date and origin were established:

These lamps were dated by stratigraphic context and by comparison with other objects on this and other sites, for instance, al-Fudayn (Mafraq).

How Object was obtained:

These lamps were obtained during an archaeological excavation carried out at the site of Ayla (Aqaba) in 1987.

How provenance was established:

These lamps were found at the ancient site of Ayla (Aqaba) during archaeological excavations; they might have been imported from Yemen or western Arabia (Hijaz). The steatite mines of Yemen have been studied; although it is known that earlier mines were active in the Hijaz during the 2nd and 3rd / 8th and 9th centuries.

Selected bibliography:

Whitcomb, D., Aqaba: Fort of Palestine on the China Sea, Amman, 1988, p.25, figs. C, D.

Citation of this web page:

Aida Naghawy, Manal Basyouni "Two steatite (soapstone) oil lamps: a) star-shaped oil lamp; b) triplet oil lamp" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;jo;Mus01_D;14;en

Prepared by: Aida NaghawyAida Naghawy

Aida Naghawy is an archaeologist and the Director of Jordan Archaeological Museum. She studied archaeology at the University of Jordan where she gained her MA. She was affiliated to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities from 1974 as a curator of Jordan Archaeological Museum. In 1981 she became inspector of Jerash antiquities and co-ordinator of the Jerash International Rehabilitation project. She was also head of the archaeological awareness section at the Department of Antiquities. Aida is the author of numerous publications on Islamic coins. She has carried out excavation work in Jerash and is the founder of Jerash Archaeological Museum and the Islamic Museum of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.
, Manal BasyouniManal Basyouni

Manal Basyouni is an archaeologist and Curator at Aqaba Museum at the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. She studied at the University of Jordan where she gained her BA in Archaeology. She has been affiliated to the Department of Antiquities as Curator of Aqaba Museum since 1997. She has carried out several excavations in the southern part of Jordan especially in al-Humayma, Wadi Rum and Ayla.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: JO 23

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