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date: 03 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Lamps with Christian imagery are among the earliest and most easily identifiable material witnesses to early Christian communities in the Roman Empire, but lamps employed by Christians were not confined to those adorned with religious images and symbols. This chapter presents an overview of the types of clay, metal, and glass lamps owned and used by Christians and discusses their functions in daily, funerary, ecclesiastical, and other ritual contexts. Continuities with and departures from earlier Roman practices are highlighted, while the emergence of a specifically Christian decorative repertory is associated both with the wish of early Christians to express their distinct religious identity in material terms and with the gradual elaboration of a Christian symbolism of light. The need for more focused, contextualized studies of lamps within the framework of Christian archaeology remains a desideratum for future research.

Keywords: Christian lamps, clay lamps, metal lamps, glass lamps, Christian imagery, light symbolism

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