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Source Image: PR223_01_19 of Columnar Sarcophagus (1) of Ostia: Miscellaneous Sarcophagi

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Description

Detail of the central panel of a columnar sarcophagus from Ostia.

Monument
Ostia: Miscellaneous Sarcophagi 
Monument Part
Columnar Sarcophagus (1) 
Monument Type
Sarcophagus 
Material(s)
Marble (Visual identification)  
Date
circa ad 200 - circa ad 300 
Keywords
HeadFoliageColumnColumnar Sarcophagus  
Collections
Ostia Antica  

Location

Original Location
Ostia 

Evidence for working practices

1. Toolmarks

Process
Rough shaping
Tool
Flat Chisel
Method
Angle: Shallow (40-50°)
Force: Medium
Description
The faces of these figures have been roughly worked with the flat chisel but not taken any further.

2. Toolmarks

Process
Detailing
Tool
Drill
Method
Vertical (90°)
Description
Drilling can be seen in the drapery of the figures, the capital of the column on the right, and the elaborate foliage running along the top of the chest.

3. Toolmarks

Process
Detailing
Tool
Channelling Tool
Method
Angle: Shallow (40-50°)
Force: Gentle
Description
Following drilling a channelling tool was used in the foliage and on the drapery to create the deep grooves visible.

Notes

This is one example of a large number of Roman sarcophagi on which the heads of the figures (on chest and lid) are not finished. The reasons for this lack of finish have been greatly debated and various explanations proposed. One possibility is that this sarcophagus was purchased in this condition with the portraits left for finishing but the buyer could not afford to have them finished or had no desire to finish them. Another possibility is that they were meant to be finished once the individuals buried in the sarcophagus had died but this never ended up happening. Finally it has been proposed that this lack of finish was deliberate and represented contemporary superstitions.

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