Marble relief from the Lion Tomb

Lykian, about 550-500 BC
From Xanthos (modern Günük, south-western Turkey)

The Lion Tomb, named after the subject of some of its sculptured reliefs, is one of the earliest dated surviving tombs from Xanthos. The panels of relief carving formed a marble sepulchral chest which served as a coffin. It was originally placed on a tall limestone pillar. The south side has a recumbent lion, the north a lioness protecting her cub. On the east side is an armed man; behind him is a boy carrying what appears to be a spear, and in front of him is a man on horseback. The west side has an opening through which the body of the deceased would have been passed. On each side of the opening are carved scenes of a lively wrestling match between a man and a lion, and a fragmentary seated figure.

The style of the carving is peculiar, but it has been suggested that this is the result of the artist being a non-Greek who was influenced by Greek work. The subjects of the reliefs - warriors and lions - is thought to reflect the Lykian preoccupation with royalty and war. In all, this Lykian royal tomb appears to be a fusion of Persian and Greek elements. The enthroned figure who is largely lost may well have been a depiction of the deceased ruler.

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More information


J. Boardman, Greek sculpture: the late Clas (London, Thames and Hudson, 1995)

E. Slatter, Xanthus: travels and discovery (London, Rubicon Press, 1994)

L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

F.N. Pryce, Catalogue of sculpture in the (London, 1928)


Museum number

GR 1848.10-20.31 (Sculpture B 286)


Excavated by Sir Charles Fellows


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