Not on view

Oil lamps were a common way to provide light in the ancient world. The body of the lamp would be filled with oil and a wick would extend out. This shoe-shaped example would have had the wick coming out the ‘tip’ of the shoe. Although its tip is broken, the blackened area of the shoe gives a clear indication of how the lamp would have been used. The lamp was excavated from a house at the site of Ma’aridh II in the Ctesiphon area.

The city of Ctesiphon was located on the east bank of the Tigris River, 20 miles (32 km) south of modern Baghdad in Iraq. It flourished for more than 800 years as the capital of the Parthians and the Sasanians, the last two dynasties to rule the ancient Near East before the Islamic conquest in the seventh century. Systematic excavations in the Ctesiphon area were undertaken by an expedition in 1928–29 sponsored by the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft). The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Staatliche Museen, Berlin, undertook a joint expedition for one season in 1931–32. Several excavations were conducted, including at the main palace (Taq-i Kisra), in a small fortified area south of the palace at Tell Dheheb, at multiple houses at the mounds of Ma’aridh, and at additional houses at a small mound called Umm ez-Za’tir.

Over the course of the excavations in the Ctesiphon area, six houses from a series of small mounds called el Ma’aridh were excavated. These houses follow typical Sasanian design with a mix of square and elongated rooms. Ma’aridh II is a large house that is entered through a small entry way rather than directly from the street. The house is divided into a utilitarian, or service, sector on the eastern side of the building, and a monumental decorated space to the west of the entryway. The western rooms were decorated with pillars, a double horseshoe archway, and stucco reliefs. A long barrel vaulted arched room, 19 meters in length, was probably the most important room of the house. It was entered through a smaller room with four pillars. This large house, with the excavated portion revealing more than 1800 square meters, represents an elite household.

Excavation Number: O.1571

Lamp, Ceramic, Sasanian

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