“Tending the wick” was probably done with a splinter of wood or, as in this case, with a nail. This broken fragment of a lamp originally was a closed lamp with two holes, perhaps resembling one of the lamps pictured on page 46. The wick was placed in one hole, and oil was poured into the other.
Although the average lamp held enough oil for it to burn all night, the wick would need adjusting as it burned down every few hours. It was the woman of the house who was obliged to perform this chore, getting up two or three times each night, winter or summer, to keep the “pilot” light burning. Letting her pilot light go out and then having to borrow one from a neighbor may have branded the poor housekeeper as a failure. Perhaps this standard was the basis for the sentence in the famous testimony to a good wife in Proverbs 31:18, “Her lamp does not go out at night.”