Excavated at Palmyra, Syria
Limestone; H. 20 1/4 in. (51.4 cm)
Purchase, 1902 (02.29.1)
In the mid-first century A.D., Palmyra, a wealthy and elegant Syrian city located along the caravan routes linking the Parthian Near East with the Mediterranean ports of Roman Syria and Phoenicia, came under Roman control. During the following period of great prosperity, the Aramaean citizens of Palmyra adopted customs and modes of dress from both the Iranian Parthian world to the east and the Greco-Roman west.
Palmyrenes constructed a series of large-scale funerary monuments. These structures, some of which were below ground, had interior walls that were cut away or constructed to form burial compartments in which the deceased, extended full length, were placed. Limestone slabs with human busts in high relief sealed the rectangular openings of the compartments. These reliefs represented the "personality" or "soul" of the person interred and formed part of the wall decoration inside the tomb chamber. A banquet scene as depicted on this relief would have been displayed in a family tomb rather than that of an individual.