A linen wick from the northern church at Shivta, Israel

Naama Sukenik, Yotam Tepper

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The use of wicks in ancient times enabled the lighting of private and public houses and was vital for ancient life. However, only a few wicks have been identified in their archaeological context. In a reexamination of the Shivta Collection of the Colt Expedition (1933-1936, 1938) at the site a small tube was found, made of copper alloy, which has been dated to the Byzantine period and still contains the remains of a wick. The wickholder would have been used in a floating-wick oil lamp and it probably belonged to a type of glass lamp that was typical of the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. The fiber of the wick was preserved because of the arid climate in the Negev and also because of the association of the wick with the metal tube, which prevented the destruction by micro-organisms. The fibers of the wick were identified by microscopic analysis as linen (Linum usitatissimum L.), based on the morphology of the internal layers of the fibers. The choice of flax as a raw material for making wicks seems very reasonable. Flax was a very common agricultural crop in the Land of Israel and was used as one of the important raw materials in the weaving industry until the Islamic period.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlass, Wax and Metal
Subtitle of host publicationLighting Technologies in Late Antique, Byzantine and Medieval Times
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781789692167
StatePublished - 31 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Authors and Archaeopress 2019.


  • Byzantine period
  • Early islamic period
  • Linen
  • Linum usitatissimum
  • Shivta
  • Wick
  • Wickholder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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