Explore highlights
Marble sarcophagus with lid


Height: 91.500 cm (about)
Length: 228.600 cm
Width: 99.000 cm

Excavated by Admiral Spratt

GR 1861.2-20.2 (Sculpture 2324)

    Marble sarcophagus with lid

    Roman, about AD 200-300
    From Ierápetra, Crete

    For a Hellenistic-style burial

    The sarcophagus is rectangular in shape and the lid is in the form of a pitched roof with overlapping leaf-shaped tiles. The short ends of the coffin are decorated with large garlands of fruit, including pomegranates and figs, flowers and leaves, including myrtle and ivy. The front shows a boy supporting two more garlands, and these are attached to the corners of the sarcophagus by bucrania (ox skulls). The lid and the upper part of the sarcophagus are badly weathered, and the back was never finished, suggesting that it was designed to be set into a niche in a tomb or vault.

    Though made in Crete this sarcophagus closely imitates a type which was made in Athens and exported throughout the Mediterranean, particularly the eastern end. Marble sarcophagi became increasingly popular throughout the Roman period as the fashion for Hellenistic-style burials increased. Simpler examples such as this one, with its garlands and ox skulls showing its derivation from altar decoration, gradually gave way to more ornate examples depicting personages and battles from history and mythology.

    S. Walker, Roman art (London, 1991)


    Browse or search over 4,000 highlights from the Museum collection