- Museum number
Marble sarcophagus , or cinerary urn used to bury a child, made of Carrara marble: swags of leaves, fruit and nuts tied to the horns of bucrania. On the short sides are laurel trees and acanthus leaves.
- Production date
- 120-140 (circa)
Height: 34.50 centimetres (Chest)
Height: 26.90 centimetres (Internal)
Height: 10.30 centimetres (Lid)
Length: 55.50 centimetres (Internal)
Length: 66 centimetres
Width: 33 centimetres (Internal)
Width: 44.10 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Walker, Susan, 1990, Catalogue of Roman Sarcophagi in the British Museum:
Smith, III 333 no. 2325; A. Pietrogrande, Africa Italiana 3 (1930), 137-8 no. 19; D. M. Bailey, BSA 67 (1972), 1-12; J. Huskinson, CSIR GB II, 1 (1975), 51 no. 91, pl. 35;
H. Brandenburg, Jdl 93 (1978), 277-327; Koch-Sichtermann, 269, 580; F. Sinn, Stadtrömische Marmorurnen (Mainz 1987), 113-4 no. 89.
Brandenburg argued that this sarcophagus, with plain interior and possibly originally intended as a cinerary urn for an adult, must have been exported from Italy. Its decoration, evidently copied from funerary altars,(1) is similar to that of the Caffarelli sarcophagus now in Berlin and to the urn of P. Volumnius of Perugia.(2) The laurel trees on the short sides are very similar to those on the short sides of Raphael's sarcophagus in the Pantheon at Rome.(3) However, Koch and Sichtermann find no similar chests in Italy, Athens or Asia Minor. They regard it as a unique piece, possibly made in Lepcis Magna and based on metropolitan models.(4)
Recent isotopic analysis of marble from this sarcophagus supports the view that it was of Italian origin. The chest may have been exported almost finished to Cyrenaica and, for whatever reason, was never completed by a local sculptor (both Bailey and Huskinson note carelessness in the final stages of workmanship). Alternatively, the chest may be entirely of local or Tripolitanian manufacture, as Koch suggests.
Opinion over the date of the sarcophagus has varied. The quality of the finish may be more a reflection of conditions of export than of chronology; the closest Italian parallels (if Brandenburg's chronology is accepted) are Augustan.(5) Though both inhumations in the tomb at Ain-es Selmani are believed to be of Hadrianic date, the objects found in the tomb range in date from the fourth century BC to the second century AD.(6) Like other objects found in the tomb, the sarcophagus may well be earlier than the burial within it, particularly if it was originally intended as a cinerary urn. The other sarcophagus found in the chamber, of Phrygian manufacture, is of second century date (see Walker, no. 56).
1. Bailey op. cit. (above), 10.
2. Pietrogrande, op. cit. (above), 138; A. Von Gerkan- F. Messerschmidt, KM 57(1942), figs 44-47.
3. For drawings see Brandenburg, op. cit. (above), 310 fig. 39a-b.
4. Koch-Sichtermann, loc. cit. (above); Sinn, op. cit. (above) finds no parallels in Rome.
5. The chest is dated to the early empire by Sinn, op. cit. (above).
6. Bailey, passim.
- Not on display
- Undamaged and unrestored.
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number