Ceramics in Mainland Southeast Asia:
Collections in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

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Oil lamp

  • Earthenware
  • 2.9 x 9.6 x 9.4 cm
  • 6th-11th century, Pre-Angkor period or Angkor period
  • Origin: Southern Vietnam
  • Provenance: Mekong River Delta, Southern Vietnam
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.182


Oil lamp with spout.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Candy Chan, Intern, April 15, 2002) Similar oil lamps with spouted mouth were found on the protohistoric sites (Dvaravati Sites) in Central Thailand (Indrawooth 1982, 34, no. 2, fig. 3.

Phasook Indrawooth. 1981. "Ceramics from Protohistoric Sites in Central Thailand." SPAFA Digest II(2): 33–36.

2. (Louise Cort, 23 May 2007) The Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City, has a large number of wheel-thrown "saucers" or "saucer lamps" (typical diameter 9 cm.) that were recovered from the Dong Nai riverbed in the early 1990s. Some had a small spout for the wick, like S2005.180–182. The collection of materials recovered from the river at the same time also includes a pre-Angkorian (?) earthenware ewer with red-painted decoration; many Angkorian Khmer stoneware jars, both unglazed and glazed; and a large Maenam Noi (h. 60 cm) with thick rim and thick lugs—a type that appears to fall late in the Maenam Noi sequence. Granted that the riverbed might have held jumbled ceramics from quite different places and times, these associated finds suggest a date later than Oc Eo and a source in a different region.

3. (Louise Cort, 3 October 2008) The Hauges acquired this vessel as "Oc Eo."  They knew a Vietnamese military officer stationed in the Mekong delta area; he recovered pots from the swampy margins of rivers during the low-water season. Such pots were said to be "from Oc Eo."

The Hauges owned a copy of Malleret's 1960 publication on Oc Eo and employed it to confirm the pieces they acquired as "Oc Eo culture." It is important to note that Malleret acquired all his ceramic samples, except those that he excavated from Oc Eo, as surface finds located in the course of general surveys of other sites (Malleret 1960, 92).

The wheel-thrown form suggests an association with ceramic technology introduced from India and manifest in wares excavated from the Angkor Borei site, for example.  They correspond approximately in date with the Dvaravati materials from Thailand.  Assuming that this lamp may have been made in southern Vietnam, it might have been made in a pre-Angkorian Khmer context there.

To Origin added Southern Vietnam. To Period added Pre-Angkor period or Angkor period.

Malleret, Louis. 1960. La civilisation matérielle d'Oc-Eo. L'Archéologie du Delta du Mékong, tome 2. Publications de l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient, Vol. XLIII. Paris: l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient.

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