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Research Groningen Institute of Archaeology Research MARE - Mortuary Archaeology of the Roman East (Dutch Research Council – VICI) Projects

Encoffined Bodies

Decorated sarcophagi in funerary customs in Coastal Lebanon

Burial in stone coffins, many decorated in relief, was a popular practice in the Near East under Roman rule. Being part of a funerary context, the coffins played a role in the proper care for and remembrance of the deceased. As a container for the corpse - simultaneously protecting the body and hiding its disintegration- it speaks directly to concepts of the body held by the burying community, and to the role of the materiality of the coffin and its decoration in the care for the dead. This PhD project investigates the ritual function of sarcophagi in their material and pictorial setting.

The research concentrates on the coast of Lebanon, which had a long history of use of coffin burials. Legacy and orphaned collections from older excavations and epigraphic or art historical surveys form the core dataset. Contextual data comes from recent rescue excavations, such as those in Beirut.

Researcher: Nicholas Aherne 

Encoffined bodies
Roman-period sarcophagus in front of the National Museum of Beirut. Photo by V. Kalenderian/ © DGA Lebanon.
Last modified:06 September 2022 10.05 a.m.