Seen as the messenger of peace, symbol of the Holy Spirit, or the righteous soul released into eternity, the dove is one of the most familiar images of Christian art. In late antiquity, it was one of several birds, including the peacock, whose form was used for metal lamps, with the body serving as the receptacle for oil, and the tail containing a single or double wick-hole. This plump dove is a particularly fine example of the type, its head turned a little to the right, beak open, and feathers depicted in detailed incised work. The filler-hole in the centre of the back is covered with a hinged triangular lid, around which are the rings holding three suspension chains held on a large ring above. The lamp could be used hanging or standing: in addition to its two firmly planted feet, it has a third 'leg' at the back which keeps the heavy body stable. A fourth chain attached to the large ring ends in a forking, bent plate of metal (not shown in the picture) which had apparently served as a suspension-hook.
Late 4th Century AD