Oil-lamps (lucernae), made of earthenware, bronze or glass, were used, together with torches, for the illumination of public and private buildings. They were made in moulds. The small opening on the upper surface of the disk served for refilliing, while the larger opening at the other end was for the wick. Some lamps have more than one opening for the wick. The handles were of various forms.
The upper surfaces of these examples are decorated with coloured, incised, engraved and carved motifs from the world of gods and heroes or with scenes from everyday life. The sign of the workshop or the name of the craftsman was sometimes impressed on the bottom.
The bronze and earthenware examples could be set on a base or hung on the walls to provide lighting for larger rooms.
The oil-lamps found in Singidunum include almost all the known types, and some are quite rare. The lamps came from the best-known workshops of Italy, Gaul, Germany and the eastern Mediterranean. They were also imitated by local craftsmen.
Their importance lies not only in their practical use, but also in the indirect evidence they provide of the cult of fire, of the reveration of the hearth and the worship of the Penates, the guardians of the household, who were invoked by daily libations. Oil-lamps have also been frequently found as grave goods.