• “Darom” lamp decorated with basket of figs and palm trees, Mould-made, soot marks, 70-150 CE.

  • “Jerusalem” two-nozzle lamp with geometric decoration, Mould-made, black clay, 37 BCE – 70 CE.

Let There Be Light

Oil Lamps from the Holy Land

December 01, 2005–February 26, 2006

Let There Be Light, on loan to MOBIA from the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, illuminates the many uses of palm-size clay oil lamps, a window on our ancient history. Simple and utilitarian in form, and often decorated with various symbols and motifs reflecting the cultures and religions of the people, these lamps were of great importance as the only source of light in homes and temples. This exhibition allows an intimate look at Jewish, Christian, Samaritan, and Islamic oil lamps that were vital for use in the daily lives and religious rituals in the Holy Land, tracing their development over three millennia.

“For thou art my lamp, O Lord: and the Lord will enlighten my darkness.” 2 Samuel 22:29
For over three millennia, oil lamps provided light in homes, temples, synagogues, churches, and mosques throughout the Holy Land.  These terra cotta vessels illuminated daily activities as well as religious rituals, and became a symbol of life and divine presence for many cultures.  Simple and utilitarian in form and often diminutive in size, lamps could be decorated with elaborate patterns or floral motifs, symbols of faith, or scenes from quotidian life.  This exhibition presents nearly one hundred examples, from spare Bronze Age vessels to embellished Byzantine lamps, from lamps commemorating the harvest to those celebrating Hanukkah, demonstrating that even the most everyday objects can connect the human to the divine through the miracle of light. The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalog published by the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem.

Courtesy of the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem. Let There Be Light: Oil Lamps from the Holy Land was supported in part by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation.