Mortuary Archaeology of the Roman East - VICI/Dutch Research Council 2021- 2026



In the Roman provinces of the Near East some people never passed away completely. Memories of the deceased were prolonged after death through portraits and epitaphs, monumental stone coffins, and roadside tombs. This project investigates how these forms of displaying the dead were embedded in mortuary rituals.

The dataset largely consists of so-called legacy and orphaned materials. Discovered or excavated decades ago, tomb fragments such as sarcophagi and stelae often remain un(der)- published and hidden away in storerooms. Others end up as spolia, in parks or in gardens of one of the many regional museums. A further barrier for the study of mortuary rituals of the Roman Near East are the disciplinary divides in scholarship on epitaphs, human bones, ornamentation, and material remains.

Recently, digitization efforts have made large datasets of ancient inscriptions and portraits available, and a pilot database was developed at the University of Groningen that brings different data categories in conversation with each other. Capitalizing on these initiatives, MARE integrates legacy datasets compiled by archaeologists, historians, and art historians. Using an object-active approach, we interrogate the transformation of relationships between people, tombs, epitaphs, coffins, and visual imagery in the cemeteries of Roman Lebanon, Syria (Palmyra), and Turkey (Pisidia).

Over a period of five years (2021-2026), our team investigates how local communities envisioned and reformulated their relationships with the dead. We will build a digital infrastructure to enhance legacy and orphaned datasets from coastal Lebanon, Palmyra, and Pisidia, as well as to unlock inaccessible collections for wider audiences.

!!Layman's description

Met de komst van Rome werden de doden op nieuwe manieren geëtaleerd opde begraafplaatsen van het Nabije Oosten. Dit project onderzoekt hoe de trends in grafschriften, portretten en versierde gedenktekens werden ingepast in de lokale grafgebruiken. Daarmeebiedt hetnieuwe inzichten in cultuurverandering.
Effectieve start/einddatum01/11/202101/11/2026