The Ancient Babylonians were an innovative civilization that lived in Mesopotamia from around 1900 BC to 539 BC. They made advancements in math, science, architecture, and engineering, despite not having access to modern technology like electricity. So how did they manage to "wire" their mud huts and bring lighting into their homes? Here is an in-depth look at the creative ways the Ancient Babylonians illuminated their mud brick houses.

Lighting Sources Used in Babylonian Homes

The Ancient Babylonians had several methods of bringing light into their dark mud huts at night:

Oil Lamps

The most common form of lighting was oil lamps made of clay. These olive oil or sesame oil fueled lamps were placed in niches carved into interior walls or set on stands throughout the home. Wicks made of plant fibers brought the oil up to produce a flame. The Babylonians placed these oil lamps in bedrooms, kitchens, and living areas to illuminate the home's interior.


Torches consisting of reeds dipped in bitumen tar were another portable lighting source. Homeowners mounted torch holders on walls throughout the house. Servants would light and extinguish these reeds as needed to brighten up rooms. The flickering torchlight cast dancing shadows on the mud brick walls.

Brass Lamps

Wealthy Babylonians used ornate brass lamps fueled by olive oil instead of basic pottery oil lamps. These shiny metallic lamps reflected more light and gave off a brighter glow than their clay versions. The elite had these status symbols mounted on richly decorated stands in their bedrooms and reception halls.


Fireplaces located in kitchens and gathering rooms provided both warmth and light. In ancient Mesopotamia's cooler months, family members would gather around the firepit after dark to take advantage of its light and heat.

How the Babylonians Mounted Lamps on Walls

But how did the Babylonians install these various lighting sources on their mud brick walls without any modern electrical wiring? They mainly had two techniques:

Lamp Niches

The primary method was carving out lamp niches in the mud bricks. These were circular holes made in walls throughout the home, each large enough to embed the base of an oil lamp or torch holder. The lighting could then be slotted into the socket and its flames would illuminate the room.

Mounting Brackets

In some cases, lighting was mounted using brackets attached directly to the brick walls. These were often wood or wrought iron brackets that held brass lamps and torch holders. Affluent families who could afford these costly metal fixtures used mounting brackets to display their elaborate lamps.

Wiring to Distribute Lighting

Obviously, the Ancient Babylonians didn't have electrical wires inside their mud brick walls. But they did have some creative solutions to distribute lighting through rooms and throughout the home:

Window Openings

The Babylonians oriented their houses to take advantage of window openings that let in natural sunlight during the day. These windows also allowed lighting from interior rooms to filter into adjacent spaces at night. Strategically placed window openings helped spread oil lamp and torch glow throughout the home.

Open Floorplans

Most Babylonians had open floorplans allowing lighting from kitchens, living areas, and courtyards to illuminate connected rooms. High ceilings also helped reflect and distribute any light source to brighten up more of the home's interior space.


Some Babylonians had skylights to let in extra daylight or moonlight at night. These openings in the roof could augment the lighting spread from the home's windows and open floorplan.

Reflective Materials

The shiny brass lamps amplified light by reflection off their reflective metallic surfaces. Babylonians also used reflective materials like polished copper mirrors and white gypsum wall plasters to help brighten up rooms. Any surface that could reflect or bounce light sources helped supplement the home's lighting.

How Lacking Electricity Impacted Babylonian Life

The lack of electrical lighting did have some downsides on daily Babylonian life:

But the Ancient Babylonians adapted well using the lighting technology available in their time. Their mud brick houses glowed from the flickering flames of oil lamps, torches, and fireplaces after the sun went down each night. Though they didn't have modern wiring, the ingenious ways the Babylonians installed and distributed lighting allowed their civilization to thrive for centuries.