Roman oil lamp decorated with erotic scene of a woman and a herm has been unearthed during the excavations by a UA expert team at La Alcudia archaeological site
The phallus and the depiction of sexual intercourse were symbols of good luck and protection
Archaeological remains teach us to look at a history free of prejudices to build a new future
Roman oil lamp found at La Alcudia archaeological site in Elche
Members of the Project Domus-La Alcudia. Vivir en Ilici excavando
Team members of the Project Domus-La Alcudia. Vivir en Ilici
Alicante. 14 March 2017
A unique Roman oil lamp that retains part of a scene with marked sexual content, has been unearthed at La Alcudia archaeological site by the UA archaeological team working in the Project Domus-La Alcudia: Vivir en Ilici. An explicit love relationship between a woman and a herm is depicted on the lamp.
A herm is a squared pillar with a male human head and - usually - male genitals were carved at the appropriate height. These pillars were very frequently used in the Greek world to represent the gods Hermes and Dionysus and used as protection landmarks for properties and pathways. Later on, in Roman culture, they were widely used to represent various figures until they were given a decorative value in a cultural context where these depictions of the sexual organs were considered prophylactic and bringers of good fortune.
This explicit image, like many others of seemingly erotic content that were largely used in everyday objects of the classical world and did not fall into the category of the obscene, but rather in a visual experience different from ours, which granted sexual intercourse and its depiction a magic, protector and sometimes religious meaning. The remains exhumed in La Alcudia allow us to look at the past with present eyes and build a history free of prejudice.
With this find, the team keeps on contributing to knowledge about the past of the old Iulia Ilici Augusta colony and, in particular, about its more modern phases corresponding to the time of the high Middle Ages.