How Was Lamp Oil Made in Ancient Times?

Lamp oil has been used for centuries to light up homes, streets, and temples. In ancient times, people had to rely on natural resources to make lamp oil.

The process of making lamp oil was different in different regions of the world. In this article, we will explore how lamp oil was made in ancient times.

The Process of Making Lamp Oil

Greece and Rome:

In ancient Greece and Rome, olive oil was the most commonly used fuel for lamps. Olive trees were grown in large numbers in these regions, so it was easily available.

Olive oil was extracted from the olives by crushing them between two stones. The crushed olives were then placed in a press to extract the oil.

Once the oil was extracted, it was stored in large clay jars called amphorae. The oil was then transported to various parts of the city for sale. Lamp makers would buy the olive oil and use it to make lamps.


In ancient Egypt, lamp oil was made from animal fat. Sheep or goat fat was melted down in a pot over a fire. Once the fat had melted, it was strained through a cloth to remove any impurities.

The purified fat was then poured into a container and left to cool down. As it cooled, the fat solidified into a white substance called tallow. Tallow could be stored for long periods without spoiling.

When needed for use in lamps, tallow could be melted down again and poured into small containers with wicks made from papyrus reeds.


In ancient India, sesame oil was commonly used as lamp fuel. Sesame seeds were roasted over a fire until they turned brown. The roasted seeds were then crushed using a pestle and mortar to extract the oil.

The extracted sesame oil was filtered through cloth to remove any impurities before being stored in clay pots. When needed, the oil was poured into lamps made from clay or metal. The wicks were made from cotton, and sometimes dipped in ghee (clarified butter) to make them burn brighter.


In conclusion, lamp oil was an essential commodity in ancient times for lighting up homes and streets. Olive oil, animal fat, and sesame oil were commonly used as fuel for lamps in different parts of the world.

While the process of making lamp oil was different in each region, it often involved extracting oil from natural resources and storing it in containers for later use. Understanding how ancient people made lamp oil gives us a glimpse into their daily lives and the resources they had available to them.