Limestone memorial bust of Tamma

Palmyra, Syria, about AD 100-150

The inscription names this woman as Tamma, daughter of Shamshi geram, son of Malku, son of Nashum. The portrait would have accompanied her body in the cemetery at Palmyra, where various types of tombs were built for wealthier citizens: tomb towers of several stories, single storey house tombs, and underground rock-hewn tombs called hypogea. All the tombs contained compartments (cubicula) set in the walls to hold the remains of the dead. Each cubiculum was sealed with a plaque bearing a sculptural portrait of the deceased and a brief dedicatory inscription.

The merchant families of Palmyra, which lay on the border between the Roman and Persian worlds, displayed their wealth in life and death. Tamma is surrounded by the splendour of her wordly possessions, a testament to her success in life, and holds a spindle and distaff, possibnly symbols of her household position. The Palmyrenes adopted with enthusiasm the Roman tradition of individual portraiture.

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More information

Bibliography

J.C.H. King (ed.), Human image (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

Dimensions

Height: 50.000 cm

Museum number

ME 125204

WCO24980

Location

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