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Title:Funerary bust of a prominent woman
Date Made:2nd-3rd century CE
Materials:Limestone with pigment
Place Made:Asia; Syria; Palmyra
Measurements:Overall: 21 1/2 in x 15 1/4 in x 8 1/2 in; 54.6 cm x 38.7 cm x 21.6 cm
Accession Number:  MH 1932.4.C.OII
Credit Line:Purchase with the Nancy Everett Dwight Fund
Museum Collection:  Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

Half-length figure of a woman with right arm crossing her body at waist, left arm right arm raised to the side of her face;against her left temple; she wears a loose garment and an ornamental headdress, a bracelet, earrings, a pendant and necklaces

Label Text:
The ancient Syrian city of Palmyra was a prosperous commercial center and an oasis for traveling caravans. The city continued to flourish after its incorporation into the Roman Empire at the end of the 1st century CE and its wealthier citizens displayed their riches not only in life, but also in death. A kilometer-long necropolis called the “Valley of the Tombs” bordered the city walls and housed over 150 tombs for the elite merchant class.
This fragment is an example of a funerary bust from an underground tomb. Each portrait would have sealed off a cubiculum, a compartment housing the mummified body of the deceased set into the tomb wall. The woman is bedecked with the fine jewels available to Palmyran merchants, including a circular fibula on her chest, an ornate tiara beneath her turban, and decorative bracelet, earrings, and necklaces.

- From Reconstructing Antiquity, Rachel G. Beaupré (Sept. 2016)

ancient; archaeology; funeral rites and ceremonies; monuments

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2 Related Media Items


1 Related Objects

MH 1999.15.10
Antoninus Pius (minted under)
Denarius of Faustina the Elder
after 141 CE
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