Information

Anthropoid Sarcophagi from Sidon



The Tomb of Alexander the Great - Part Two

In 1887, Osman Hamdi Bey, the director of the Ottoman Imperial Museum in Istanbul, was alerted to a major find in Sidon, Lebanon. Two groups of underground chambers were unearthed and opened, containing a number of sarcophagi. One of these was a magnificent sarcophagus carved from Greek Pentelic marble, which is encompassed by some of the finest sculptures ever discovered from the classical Greek era (see feature image). This is truly a mesmerising piece of workmanship.

Interestingly, although the sarcophagus has no inscriptions, and the contents have been looted in antiquity, the bold-relief marble friezes around the exterior do provide us with a great deal of information. The primary scene appears to be of Alexander the Great engaging the Persian king, Darius III, a scene that is thought to depict Darius fleeing the battle of Issus in 333 BC. Indeed, there are striking parallels between this sculpture and the mosaic discovered in the House of the Faun in Pompeii. The sarcophagus is therefore of the right era and context to be associated with Alexander but this association also brings with it several problems, for the descriptions of the sarcophagus in Diodorus’ Library of History do not tally with this marble sarcophagus, and the location it was discovered in also seemed unlikely to many. Faced with these difficulties, the sarcophagus has been attributed to Abdalonymos, a Phoenician king of Sidon appointed by Alexander himself.

Fig 2. Detail from the House of the Faun mosaic in Pompeii: the defeat of Darius III. Alexander is on the left of the scene. Apart from Darius being in a chariot here, as opposed to on horseback, the scene is remarkably similar to the ‘Alexander Sarcophagus'.

But this attribution is in itself is fraught with uncertainty, as ‘King Abdalonymos’ is depicted in these scenes in Persian dress, and appears to take the place of Darius III in the battle scene. Firstly, it is by no means certain that the Phoenicians used Persian dress in this era. And secondly, the central character on the ‘war frieze’ – who has to be King Abdalonymos for this to be his sarcophagus – appears to be in the process of being speared by Alexander. This would be an incongruous scene to place on one’s own sarcophagus.

In addition, if one looks at contemporary Phoenician architecture and sculpture it usually mimics Egyptian, rather than Greek styles and culture, and it is more often than not of poor quality. But suddenly, in amongst all this mediocre Phoenician craftsmanship, there blossoms the most spectacular and prestigious piece of Classical Greek sculpture ever discovered. As a Phoenician artifact, this sarcophagus is therefore highly anomalous, to say the least. The alternative suggestion – that this depiction is of Alexander the Great spearing King Darius III – makes a great deal more sense, and would allow a much closer association between this sarcophagus and Alexander himself. In which case, the hunting scenes depicting Darius (or Abdalonymos), on the reverse side of the sarcophagus, may simply be there to demonstrate that Darius was a worthy foe for Alexander to defeat. There would be no glory in defeating a bumbling coward, and so Darius is also depicted in a heroic hunting pose, as is Alexander.

Fig 3. Detail from the Alexander Sarcophagus: the defeat of Darius III. Alexander (complete with the lion’s skin of Nema and ubiquitous ram’s horns in his hair) rides the charging stallion, while Darius III’s horse stumbles. Darius is depicted in Persian dress with traditional Eastern leggings, just as one might expect.

So what of Diodorus’ contradictory descriptions of the sarcophagus of Alexander, which claimed that it was made of gold? Actually, there no conflict here, for the majority of his description is of the bier or carriage that transported Alexander’s sarcophagus to Syria, and not the sarcophagus itself. And it has already been explained that the (now empty) carriage was most probably captured by general Perdikkas.

This leaves us with the gold anthropomorphic sarcophagus and its outer golden casket, a description that does not equate well with this marble sarcophagus. However, an inner golden sarcophagus would easily have fitted into this huge marble sarcophagus, and one resumes that the golden contents of the latter have been looted in antiquity, just as one might expect. As to the marble sarcophagus itself, how does this lithic masterpiece equate with its 'golden' description? Well, this magnificent white marble sarcophagus was originally painted in the brightest of colours, and no doubt much of this colouration was gold leaf, especially the overlapping roof-scales on the lid. In addition, the spears, bows and bridles for the horses were all fabricated in solid gold. In its original riot of colour and gold, this must have been one of the most spectacular funerary artifacts ever constructed.

Fig 4. An illustration of the many scenes on the 'Alexander Sarcophagus', demonstrating the many vivid colours that were originally used. In addition, all of the military and hunting hardware was originally fabricated in solid gold.

And why would Arrhidaeus, the master craftsman who fabricated Alexander's sarcophagus, have gone to the great bother of creating a wagon that incorporated a novel suspension system, if the caskets were just made of gold and gilded wood? Surely a suspension system would only be required for a delicate, brittle artifact, such as one made from marble.

Taking all of this evidence together, could this magnificent marble sarcophagus therefore be Alexander’s ‘golden’ outer casket? A marble masterpiece that was covered in gold leaf? This is certainly a possibility, and it is a great shame that we have no inscriptions on this marble sarcophagus to either confirm or deny this suggestion. There may once have been an inscription, but unfortunately it was in solid gold, and was looted along with all the solid gold armour and weaponry that the marble sculptures once bore. If one looks along the upper rim of the lid, there is a line of vine leaves: the symbol of Dionysus. However, into each leaf, four holes have been driven, and it is lamely explained that these holes give ‘naturalistic indentations’ to the leaves. Well yes, in part, for the other sarcophagi in this cache do indeed have ‘naturalistic indentations’ on their vine leaves, but the holes on the Alexander Sarcophagus are completely different in form and nature, for they are small tubes. Yet the true purpose of neat, tubular holes in ancient stonework is well known - it was to receive the pins for holding metal artifacts or letters of the alphabet. In which case, the lid of this sarcophagus may once have been ringed by an entire eulogy, wrought in solid in gold letters, detailing the name and the great deeds of the owner and occupant.

I have vainly sought to identify patterns in the arrangement of the pin-holes, to see if they match with certain Greek letters, but to no avail. However, it is my firm belief that the owner of this magnificent artifact was actually Alexander the Great himself. If so, then this is one of the most precious relics from antiquity to have survived into the modern era.

Featured image: The ‘Alexander’ sarcophagus from Sidon. Note the ‘roof with overlapping scales’ on the lid of the sarcophagus. This magnificent artifact now lies in the Istanbul Archeological Museum. The figures on this sarcophagus are only 40 odd centimeters tall, and yet every facial and body feature can be discerned. It truly is a masterpiece of sculpture.


The Sarcophagus of the Lady of Cádiz Contains a Man's Skeleton and the Sarcophagus of a Man, a Woman

Two ex-directors of the Museum of Cádiz confirm this information that was never revealed. It seems that the burials did not represent the deceased, but depended on what was available at the time of someone died

Secret of the Museum of Cádiz

Closeup of the effigies on the sarcophagi
of the man and the woman

Why didn't the news come out?

That meticulous study that took several months was made right after the discovery, but it never transpired nor was it made officially known to the press or public opinion during these forty years, beyond the legend that aired it.

Something that today surprising considering the scientific basis and scholars who supported it, but briefly will surface in the light of the studies that are about to be made in the skeletal remains of both sarcophagi. Before this question, Ramón Corzo responds that "then we did not give importance to this data, nor was there any interest in not saying it."

Narrates the expert, that of the about 200 sarcophagi that are known and that was discovered in Sidon "there are hardly any anthropological studies that I know, so I am inclined to think that it had more to do with the possibilities of using the sarcophagus at the time that someone died. " That is to say, "they took charge and they were late in arriving, and if someone died and there was a sarcophagus available, it was used," he says, downplaying the surprising facts simply revealed.

Cleaning and emptying of the female anthropoid sarcophagus. Joaquín Hernández Kiki

However, Antonio Álvarez adds that these sarcophagi did not try to represent the deceased, "but to a very rich burial element." "You asked a local workshop and what came to you arrived," he explains. The hypothesis that takes more forces with the two sarcophagi of Cádiz, because, in none, the sexes were carved on the cover coincide with those of the deceased." He understands that this event was not the important thing, "but the journey itself to the divinity."

In any case, this news was never clearly disclosed, and "the reality is that there was no interest in not saying it, rather it was not believed that it was remarkable in those times," says Ramón Corzo. He mentions moments that were crucial for the history of Cádiz, "because at that time the sculpture of Trajan was discovered in Baelo Claudia, the female Phoenician sarcophagus, the Roman Theater, and many burials."

Maybe the truth would have overshadowed the magical discovery on the site of Ruiz de Alda, when the engineer who was lucky enough to run into the ashlars that covered the sarcophagus expressed that: "This was a pretty aunt," he told this newspaper Ramón Corzo on the thread of the 30th anniversary of the discovery. An unprecedented discovery in the twentieth century in Cádiz. It is of great relevance worldwide, only comparable to that of his travel companion on earth. In the Museum itself, the male anthropoid, discovered in Punta de Vaca in 1887. He came to close the story and become a legend of Pelayo Quintero's long-awaited search, which he never found, and which "coincidentally" appeared right under his house.

The switch of the masculine remains

Antonio Álvarez was not only the person in charge of studying the skeleton of the man of the Lady of Cádiz but of the woman contained in the male sarcophagus. He was then witnessing to the loss and happy encounter of the skeleton belonging to the male sarcophagus. He proceeded to empty it in the 80s. At that time he extracted from the sarcophagus a skeleton that did not belong to its true owner, which he expressed in a meeting held for the 125th anniversary of its discovery. The origin of the unheard of anecdote is that "in one of its many transfers the skull rupture occurred, which led to the skeleton's change back in the 1920s".

Álvarez did not reveal the name of the promoter of such an idea, although he acknowledged that one day it will be analyzed in the Museum to show that the skeleton of the true Phoenician originally buried. "Francisco de las Barras was commissioned to carry out the anthropological study in 1917." He said the news echoe the first scientific study of the skeleton by Manuel Sánchez Navarro on February 1890. He spoke then of a man of approximately 1.65 cm, of low height and the high spheres. Almost a century later, Álvarez knew that he was not a man of low height, but a woman.

Translated from Spanish by the author.

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Anthropoid Sarcophagi from Sidon - History

Right: "Sarcophagus of Alexander" robbed by the Ottoman Turks, Museum of Istanbul, Turkey

The ancient graveyards of Lebanon have yielded an astonishing number of magnificent sculptured marble sarcophagi the world has ever seen.

On March 2, 1887 on a land being used as a quarry northeast of Sidon, a workman accidentally uncovers a tomb shaft about twenty feet square sunk to a depth of some fifty feet in the sandstone. Overcome by fear, he flees to Sidon and returns with the Reverend William King Eddy, an American missionary born in Sidon. They make their way through Sidon's dark streets and orange groves to the site. In the flickering candlelight Eddy realizes at once that this is not an ordinary burial but a discovery of great importance. At his feet lies Sidon's royal necropolis.

Lowering themselves by ropes down the shaft they land in front of a burial chamber. As the opening into the chamber is narrow and the ventilation poor, their candies flicker and nearly go out. Both men become dizzy and faint. Thick mud on the floor impedes their progress. Water drips from the roof.

Eddy cannot believe his eyes. Before him in the musty gloom stands a most unusual sarcophagus, the cover of which is of one piece of marble in the form of a large arch. From the four ends project lion heads. On the front end of the lid stand two figures facing each other with uplifted wings, with the body of a beast and the head of an eagle. At the rear are two similar figures, with the body of a bird and a human head. Eddy is standing in front of what is later called the "Sarcophagus of the Lycian".

The sarcophagus is made of marble from Paros. Traces of color of various shades of red, ochre, brown and blue persist. One long side depicts a hunting scene. Two chariots drawn by four horses each bear down on a lion. Two young hunters stand in each car. The horses prance and leap in the air, of the eight, only the last one to the left has a hoof on the ground.

The second long side displays a boar hunt. A wild boar attacks a group of horsemen, the horses rear and prance. They bear a striking resemblance to the horses on the Parthenon reliefs, with their small heads held erect, broad chests and loins. Five hunters raise their spears to strike the boar. They stand in two groups, three to the left and two to the right.

The shape of the sarcophagus, the sculptured reliefs of the sphinxes, the fanciful scene of the lion hunt, the mythological scenes side by side with scenes from daily life (the boar and lion hunts) resemble the funerary monuments of Lycia.

Groping their way warily in the murky darkness of the tomb, the two men encounter a second sarcophagus in the form of a Greek temple. In the flickering candlelight they gasp in amazement. The lid represents the roof of the temple, the body of the sarcophagus represents a sanctuary surrounded by a portico with eighteen exquisitely sculptured statues about three feet high standing between columns. The statues are of beautiful workmanship. All are of women expressing grief in various ways, hence its name, the "Sarcophagus of the Weepers".

The most famous, however, is the so-called "Sarcophagus of Alexander", a monumental work of art. This large pedimented work measures over eleven feet, is of Pentelic marble and weighs about fifty tons. Eddy is dazzled by its size and beauty. Alexander the Great appears in both battle and hunting scenes. The warriors on the sarcophagus are of two kinds. The first, mostly on horseback, have blue eyes, scarlet cloaks, blue tunics, crested helmets and carry shields and long straight swords.

The other type of combatant wears a peaked hat and a cloth wrapped about the head covering both cheeks, mouth and chin. They seem to be the vanquished and the battle scene appears to be one between the Greeks and the Persians. Alexander enters the battle with his spear held high ready to attack a fallen Persian. He wears a lion skin on his head like the god Heracles.

In the hunting scene Alexander rides forward with his cape flying behind him. On his head he wears the Macedonian diadem. A horseman has been attacked by a lion. The horse is rearing while the lion fastens its teeth in the horse's shoulder. The terror of the animal is evident, his nostrils are dilated with fear.

Another impressive marble burial case from the royal necropolis has been named the "Sarcophagus of the Satrap". The sculptured reliefs on the sides depict scenes from the life of an oriental potentate, surrounded by his attendants, possibly a satrap of Sidon.

Many other beautiful sarcophagi lie in different burial chambers in this "City of the Dead".

News of the sensational discovery travels to Constantinople and reaches the ears of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, A special mission, headed by Hamcly Bey, Curator of the Imperial Ottoman Museum, is despatched at once to Sidon to make the necessary arrangements to remove the sarcophagi. This proves to be a difficult task as the precious sarcophagi, big and heavy, are covered by fragile carvings. Furthermore they lie in deep subterranean chambers to which access is difficult.

A horizontal tunnel is hastily cut through the hillside into one of the burial chambers. The sarcophagi are hauled with ropes and rolled through the tunnel to the outside and into the light of day after more than two thousand years in the tomb. There they are encased in wrappings and put into wooden crates under the close supervision of Hamdy Bey. To preserve the coloring, the workmen wear gloves and stuff cotton wool behind each of the sculptures. A temporary railway through the groves to the seashore is made and a special wharf constructed on piles extending into the sea.

In one burial chamber lies a massive black basalt sarcophagus containing the mummy of Tabnit, a sixth century B.C. king of Sidon. He is the father of Eshmunazar, whose sarcophagus was found earlier at another necropolis south of Sidon called Magharat Abloun, and had created a sensation. The king of Sidon must be handled with great care for on the sarcophagus lid an inscription in Phoenician letters casts a malediction on whosoever should disturb his remains. Hamcly Bey writes half seriously, half in jest:

"I was prepared in a way to be cursed by the elderly priest-king whose sepulchre I opened with no scruples and whose body I carried off in a vulgar box of zinc. May interest in science be an excuse for my audacity and thus appease the shades of the dead."

All is ready and a special ship, the Assir, sails from Constantinople. A large hole is cut in its side. The sarcophagi are rolled over the tracks to the wharf, hoisted up to the side of the ship and placed in its hold for the long journey to Constantinople.

What was the fate of the royal necropolis which yielded such valuable treasures? A terse report in the American Journal of Archaeology in 1890 provides the answer:

"The admirable necropolis from which were taken these magnificent sarcophagi which the Museum of Constantinople removed from Sidon (Saida) three years ago, has been annihilated. For the rock in which were these beautiful sepulchral vaults . . . the very rock, has been brutally torn up and transformed into stupid masonry . . . That grandiose subterranean Museum, which earthquakes, and the devastations of conquerors and centuries of barbarism had respected, has been effaced by the criminal stupidity of a miserable gardener of Saida."

On June 21, 1890 the following notice appears in the Athendeum: "The wing of the new archaeological museum which is intended for the housing of the sarcophagi from Sidon and other places is ready and will be presently opened to the public." And there they can be admired to the present day.

The largest collection in the world of white marble anthropoid sarcophagi lie side by side in a long impressive row in Beirut National Museum. The term "anthropoid" comes from the Greek word anthropos meaning "man" because this type of burial case in particular closely follows the form of the human body.

After death, the ancient Egyptians believe, the body has to be preserved and protected from harm. Hence mummification is practiced in Egypt and cedar oil from Lebanon is used for embalming. Thus close commercial and religious ties develop between Egypt and the port cities of Lebanon.

Coffins during this early period are designed in the shape of a house or that of a mummy. The former gives the dead a substitute for his dwelling, the latter provides a "reserve" body for the afterlife. On some of the early wooden mummy cases "magical eyes" are painted on the sides near the head. It is believed that their magical power allows the dead man to look out. In no time stone anthropoid sarcophagi become popular with the well-to-do in the old World.

In 1861 six white marble anthropoid sarcophagi are discovered south of Sidon at Magharat Abloun, an ancient burial ground, by Ernest Renan, the French scholar sent by Napoleon III, Emperor of France, to make a survey of the archaeological sites of Phoenicia. These marble burial cases are different from others. The body indeed follows the contours of the Egyptian mummy case, but the head is sculptured in the Greek style with wide staring eyes and an elaborate hair-do. Each one is different from the other. Today we can look upon them with amazement and come to recognize, one by one, a number of notables, both women and men, who lived in Sidon during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.

Who was responsible for what appears to be a typical "Phoenician" invention? There must have been a school of skilled sculptors in Sidon who developed this particular art form. Let us go back in Time to the workshop of a busy sculptor living in the outskirts of Sidon and put our imagination to work.

Sedek is his name. He has ten apprentices. Each one is more clever than the other. All of them are eager to work under his skilled direction and thus become master sculptors.

Sedek has traveled to Egypt as a youth to become better acquainted with the art of carving stone. He has also traveled to Greece and has marveled at the genius of Greek sculptors. He is deeply impressed by the way they apply paint to sculptures to make them more lifelike. He is determined to follow this technique at home.

Sedek returns to Sidon and decides to introduce a new style. instead of the expressionless, standard, heavy-lipped face seen up to this time on Egyptian mummy cases, why not carve out the features of each person who one day will occupy the sarcophagus? In other words, why not make an attempt at individual portraiture?

The idea is appealing and spreads like wildfire throughout the city. The wealthy Sidonian usually orders his sarcophagus during his lifetime. It takes many months, sometimes years, to do one properly.

So one by one the notables of the city make their way to Sedek's workshop to order a "personalized" sarcophagus.

One day a rich merchant, a giant of a man, walks into Sedek's workshop. He almost fills up the room. He has come to order his sarcophagus. Of impressive proportions and height and with a heavy jaw, the merchant is very conscious of his looks. To the point that when recently the six teeth of his lower jaw get loose and are about to fall out, no doubt he was afflicted with pyorrhea alveolaris, he is greatly alarmed, He consults the city's dentist. This clever man fashions a gold appliance consisting of a fine 24 gauge wire of pure gold that he ingeniously weaves around and firmly binds together the six loose teeth of the merchant's lower jaw. The weight of this appliance, weighing slightly more than two grams, distributed over six teeth, probably causes little or no discomfort to our notable of Sidon.

Sedek spends one year carving out the massive marble sarcophagus. Many a time the merchant walks into the workshop to see how his sarcophagus is progressing. He is pleased with his likeness, his prominent jaw, as it portrays him as a vigorous and strong man. Sedek sculptures the merchant's hair carefully in neat curls around his head on the sarcophagus lid. Paint is applied to the hair, the lips, the pupils of the eyes to give a more vivid impression. The whole effect is very pleasing.

When he dies, our Sidonian notable is laid to rest in his sarcophagus. A shaft grave and tomb chamber is made for him in the necropolis south of Sidon at a locality called Ain el-Helwé today. At the beginning of this century Ain el-Helwé is the site of the American Mission School. In 1901 an agreement is reached with the American School in Jerusalem to explore the site. At the time no one could imagine that the largest collection of white marble anthropoid sarcophagi ever discovered lay buried there in deep shaft graves.

Eleven anthropoids are exhumed, eight more in the subsequent years. in the largest and heaviest marble sarcophagus, a prominent jaw to which a gold dental appliance is attached, comes to light after more than two thousand four hundred years in the darkness of the tomb! Nearby in the same burial chamber is a marble sarcophagus of a woman, the merchant's wife.

The sarcophagi are raised from the deep shaft tombs with great difficulty. Each lid and each bottom is hoisted above ground by a pulley and then loaded on the back of a waiting camel. The sarcophagus of the Sidonian merchant measures six feet eleven and a half inches. The lid weighs approximately half a ton.

When loaded on the back of a kneeling camel, the camel refuses to rise. It is transfered instead to an ox-cart. The sarcophagi are temporarily lined up in a room nearby. Called the "Ford Collection" in honor of George Ford, Director of the American Mission School of Sidon, they are donated to the authorities in Lebanon and may be seen today solemnly lying in a row in the basement level of Beirut National Museum.

Due to its geographical position, Lebanon has always served as a crossroads of cultures, a meeting place of different artistic influences from the East and West. The Phoenician sculptor and artisan not only copied the new trends that flooded his city in his day but also invented new forms and designs to suit his needs.

Thirty-eight stone anthropoids from Sidon, of which twenty-six are in Beirut National Museum, give us an idea of the genius and versatility of the city's marble workers. During the fifth to third centuries B.C. the people of ancient Lebanon were Hellenized, that is to say they adopted Greek names, dress and customs as well as the Greek mode of life. During this period it is with great difficulty that one can distinguish between a Greek and a native Phoenician.

There are many questions that remain to be answered today. Were the "Alexander sarcophagus", the "Sarcophagus of the Weepers", the "Sarcophagus of the Lycian" and the "Sarcophagus of the Satrap" the work of Greek sculptors or the work of clever Phoenicians of Sidon, skilled in Greek techniques of marble work and polychromy? For whom were these magnificent burial receptacles intended -- a king, a noble, a satrap? No inscriptions have been found to give us a clue. Perhaps this is a question that will ever have an answer.


Sarcophagi

A sarcophagus is a coffin for inhumation which in ancient times was often richly decorated. In Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece (see minoan and mycenaean civilization) two standard shapes of terracotta coffin—the bath-tub and the chest on four legs with a gable roof—were in use especially from the 14th to the 12th cents. bce , and some, including the famous Haghia Triada sarcophagus, were richly painted. In the late Archaic period sarcophagi of painted clay and rectangular or trapezoidal form were made at or near Clazomenae in western Asia Minor. Sculptured stone sarcophagi appear first in the 5th cent. bce : the finest anthropoid and casket sarcophagi with sculptured reliefs were made by Greek craftsmen for the kings of Sidon from the 5th cent. to about 300 bce anthropoid sarcophagi are also known from other sites on the Mediterranean and Black (Euxine) Sea coasts. A distinctive type of sarcophagus with ogival roof was made in Lycia. Some Hellenistic wooden sarcophagi with painted decoration have survived in southern Ukraine.

The Etruscans used sculptured sarcophagi of clay and stone from the 6th cent. bce the two commonest forms are the casket with gabled lid and the type with a reclining effigy of the dead. A few families of republican Rome buried their dead in sarcophagi: that of L. Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (consul 298 bce ) imitates the form of a contemporary altar. The prevailing rite of cremation in Rome gave way to inhumation in the early 2nd cent. ce , and the rich series of Roman sculptured marble sarcophagi begins about the time of Trajan. These were made all over the Roman world two of the best-known centres were in Athens and Docimium (Phrygia), where large sarcophagi were made with figures set between columns. At Rome, especially in the 3rd cent. ce , roughly cut chests were imported from the Greek island quarries of Thasos and Proconnesus (see propontis) to be decorated to the taste of local clients. In some areas with no local supply of stone decorated lead coffins were made, notably in Syria-Palestine and in Britain, where they were often set inside plain stone chests.


Anthropoid Sarcophagi from Sidon - History

In a room ahead of a much larger collection of mainly Roman sarcophagi there are some splendid and impressive anthropoid sarcophagi. Most are from near Sidon and were brought it Istanbul in 1891 - 1910. Naming them anthropoid (human formed) dates from 1864. They represent men as well as women, and come in two groups, Imported and Imitation (with local Phoenician-Ionian workmanship). In all cases there are protrusions on the top and bottom ends as well as the sides, four in all, to hoist the lid. A large head is always represented on the otherwise mostly bare surface.

In the Phoenician-Ionian type the hair is visible, either in three wide rows of curls or gathered in a plain bunch on the forehead with three long plaits coming down either side. In the Egyptian style the hair is covered with a cloth. There the chin is bearded and the face wide, with almond shaped eyes. The mouth is slightly smiling.

The sarcophagi of these types are believed to be work of Ionian sculptors from Anatolia who left their land after the Persian invasion and wandered over Mesopotamia, becoming influenced by Egyptian art. Their works thus reflect a characteristic combination of western and eastern art. [edited by me from notice in the room] I have one in the Adana Museum too.


Lebanon's national museum reveals long-hidden treasures

Beirut, Lebanon - Beirut's National Museum has opened its basement of ancient treasures for the first time in four decades to show the public its stunning array of funerary art, including the world's largest collection of anthropoid sarcophagi.

The new exhibition's 520 pieces range from the Palaeolithic period to the Ottoman Empire. They include Phoenician stelae and rare medieval Christian mummies along with the anthropoid coffins, which display a human face on the sarcophagus and were long a standard for the elite.

Some of the items have never before been on public display.

Other pieces have not been shown since the 1970s when the museum was forced to shut down because it sat on the front line that ran through the city during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

"This is a lesson in courage and hope because 41 years after the museum was closed in 1975, we today are able to receive visitors on three floors," says museum director Anne-Marie Maila Afeiche.

The archaeological museum was renovated after the years of fighting and shelling damaged its building and exhibits and reopened in the 1990s.

But the current exhibit is the first time its basement has been open since the civil war.

Among the treasures of often breathtaking beauty is a fragment of a Roman sarcophagus found in Beirut that depicts the myth of Icarus, who is shown alongside his father Daedalus, making his ill-fated wings.

Another gem is an extraordinary hypogeum -- an underground tomb -- accidentally discovered by a farmer in the Tyre region in 1937.

It is covered with restored frescoes inspired by Greek mythology, including a scene of Priam on bended knee begging Achilles to return the body of Hector.

'Belongs to humanity'

"It was essential to show the public this heritage, which belongs to Lebanon and humanity, that was lying in our storage," said Afeiche.

All of the exhibits on display in the museum were excavated across Lebanon, which is rich with historical sites and artefacts.

National Museum of #Beirut puts impressive basement collection on view after 40-year gap https://t.co/ebwDgEQQgc pic.twitter.com/5fZXMSQtZL

— Lonely Planet News (@LPtravelnews) November 1, 2016

They include a premolar from 70,000 BC belonging to the first known example of a homo sapiens in Lebanon and stretch through to an 1830 Ottoman stele adorned with a turban.

Among the collection's flagship displays is a series of Phoenician sarcophagi dating from between the sixth and fourth century BC that were found in the southern region of Sidon.

"We're exhibiting 31 of these sarcophagi at the moment," which mix Greek and Egyptian styles, said Afeiche, noting that some of the sarcophagi found in Sidon are currently displayed in the Louvre.

This is "the largest collection of anthropoid sarcophagi in the world," she added.

But perhaps the most striking part of the exhibit is the unprecedented display of three mummies found in 1989 by cavers in the Qadisha Valley.

The area is a Unesco World Heritage site and its cave-pocked sheer rock faces provided refuge for Maronite Christians persecuted during the Mamluk and Byzantine eras.

"They were discovered in a cave along with eight naturally mummified bodies" wearing the clothes of-of women and children, in some cases the 13th-century silk embroidery still intact.

More treasures to display

Around them were nuts, onion skins, ceramics, bronze tools and documents written in Arabic and Syriac.

"They were psalms and liturgical chants that showed that these were Christians who had taken refuge in this cave," said Afeiche.

The three mummified bodies are particularly rare as Lebanon does not have a tradition of mummification, according to Marco Samadelli, director of the Eurac centre in Italy, who offered his expertise to help conserve the unique mummies.

Italy contributed 1.02 million euros ($1.1 million) to the project of restoring the museum's basement and collection, along with the expertise of leading archaeologists including Antonio Giannarusti.

Even with the basement now open, the museum's storage areas contain plenty of undisplayed pieces and the culture ministry has plans for a new history museum in Beirut as well as museums in both Sidon and Tyre.

National Museum of Beirut opens basement for first time since civil war. https://t.co/XqfyScWUy2 pic.twitter.com/qONRVz1pId

— CARAA (@CARAA_Center) October 30, 2016

The new exhibition provides a timeline of burial techniques, from a 6000 BC Neolithic cradle tomb to a 4BC Chalcolithic burial jar found in Byblos.

Phoenician urns holding cremated remains are exhibited alongside a Byzantine-era tomb decorated with the face of the Virgin Mary from 440 AD.

"We believe this is the oldest representation of the Virgin discovered to date in Lebanon," said Afeiche.

The largest is the hypogeum from Tyre, with frescos reminiscent of Pompeii. One of its sides features an inscription: "Be brave, no one is immortal."


The National Museum of Beirut has a collection of 31 anthropoid sarcophagi, the most important single collection of this type in a museum today. These sarcophagi were built in Sidon workshops between the 6th and the 4th century B.C

Beirut (AFP) - Beirut's National Museum has opened its basement of ancient treasures for the first time in four decades to show the public its stunning array of funerary art, including the world's largest collection of anthropoid sarcophogi.

The new exhibition's 520 pieces range from the Paleolithic period to the Ottoman Empire. They include Phoenician stelae and rare medieval Christian mummies along with the anthropoid coffins, which display a human face on the sarcophogus and were long a standard for the elite.

Some of the items have never before been on public display.

Other pieces have not been shown since the 1970s, when the museum was forced to shut down because it sat on the frontline that ran through the city during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

"This is a lesson in courage and hope because 41 years after the museum was closed in 1975, we today are able to receive visitors on three floors," says museum director Anne-Marie Maila Afeiche.

The archaeological museum was renovated after the years of fighting and shelling damaged its building and exhibits, and reopened in the 1990s.

But the current exhibit is the first time its basement has been open since the civil war.

Among the treasures of often-breathtaking beauty is a fragment of a Roman sarcophagus found in Beirut that depicts the myth of Icarus, who is shown alongside his father Daedalus, making his ill-fated wings.

Another gem is an extraordinary hypogeum -- an underground tomb -- accidentally discovered by a farmer in the Tyre region in 1937.

It is covered with restored frescoes inspired by Greek mythology, including a scene of Priam on bended knee begging Achilles to return the body of Hector.

"It was essential to show the public this heritage, which belongs to Lebanon and humanity, that was lying in our storage," said Afeiche.

All of the exhibits on display in the museum were excavated across Lebanon, which is rich with historical sites and artifacts.

They include a premolar from 70,000 BC belonging to the first known example of a homo sapiens in Lebanon, and stretch through to an 1830 Ottoman stele adorned with a turban.

Among the collection's flagship displays is a series of Phoenician sarcophagi dating from between the sixth and fourth century BC that were found in the southern region of Sidon.

"We're exhibiting 31 of these sarcophagi at the moment," which mix Greek and Egyptian styles, said Afeiche, noting that some of the sarcophagi found in Sidon are currently displayed in the Louvre.

This is "the largest collection of anthropoid sarcophagi in the world," she added.

But perhaps the most striking part of the exhibit is the unprecedented display of three mummies found in 1989 by cavers in the Qadisha Valley.

The area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and its cave-pocked sheer rock faces provided refuge for Maronite Christians persecuted during the Mamluk and Byzantine eras.

"They were discovered in a cave along with eight naturally mummified bodies" wearing the clothes of of women and children, in some cases the 13th-century silk embroidery still intact.

- More treasures to display -

Around them were nuts, onion skins, ceramics, bronze tools and documents written in Arabic and Syriac.

"They were psalms and liturgical chants that showed that these were Christians who had taken refuge in this cave," said Afeiche.

The three mummified bodies are particularly rare as Lebanon does not have a tradition of mummification, according to Marco Samadelli, director of the EURAC centre in Italy, who offered his expertise to help conserve the unique mummies.

Italy contributed 1.02 million euros ($1.1 million) to the project of restoring the museum's basement and collection, along with the expertise of leading archeologists including Antonio Giannarusti.

Even with the basement now open, the museum's storage areas contain plenty of undisplayed pieces and the culture ministry has plans for a new history museum in Beirut as well as museums in both Sidon and Tyre.

The new exhibition provides a timeline of burial techniques, from a 6000 BC Neolithic cradle tomb to a 4BC Chalcolithic burial jar found in Byblos.

Phoenician urns holding cremated remains are exhibited alongside a Byzantine-era tomb decorated with the face of the Virgin Mary from 440 AD.

"We believe this is the oldest representation of the Virgin discovered to date in Lebanon," said Afeiche.

The largest is the hypogeum from Tyre, with frescos reminiscent of Pompeii. One of its sides features an inscription: "Be brave, no one is immortal."


Anthropoid Sarcophagi from Sidon - History

Karageorghis Vassos. Cyprus and Sidon : Two thousand years and interconnections. In: Cahiers du Centre d'Etudes Chypriotes. Volume 37, 2007. Hommage à Annie Caubet. pp. 41-52.

Cahiers du Centre d'Etudes Chypriotes 37, 2007

CYPRUS AND SIDON Two thousand years of interconnections

When speaking about relations between Cyprus and the Levant, reference is usually made to Ugarit as the site par excellence that had direct connections with Cyprus, connections which are attested both in the archaeological and the epigraphic record. This is not surprising, considering the large amount of goods exported from Cyprus to Ugarit, which included mainly Cypriote pottery dating from the Middle to Late Bronze Age. The discovery of a Cypro-Minoan tablet found in Ugarit, together with references in tablets to the brotherly relations between the Governor of Ugarit and the King of Alasia, dating to the end of the Late Bronze Age, are evidence not only of trading relations, but also of political connections. The harbour of Minet el-Beida received goods not only from Cyprus, but also from the Aegean, probably via Cyprus, and it was also the centre from where Near Eastern goods were re-exported to Cyprus and further west.


Lebanon's national museum reveals long-hidden treasures

Beirut's National Museum has opened its basement of ancient treasures for the first time in four decades to show the public its stunning array of funerary art, including the world's largest collection of anthropoid sarcophogi.

The new exhibition's 520 pieces range from the Paleolithic period to the Ottoman Empire. They include Phoenician stelae and rare medieval Christian mummies along with the anthropoid coffins, which display a human face on the sarcophogus and were long a standard for the elite.

Some of the items have never before been on public display.

Other pieces have not been shown since the 1970s, when the museum was forced to shut down because it sat on the frontline that ran through the city during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

"This is a lesson in courage and hope because 41 years after the museum was closed in 1975, we today are able to receive visitors on three floors," says museum director Anne-Marie Maila Afeiche.

The archaeological museum was renovated after the years of fighting and shelling damaged its building and exhibits, and reopened in the 1990s.

But the current exhibit is the first time its basement has been open since the civil war.

Among the treasures of often-breathtaking beauty is a fragment of a Roman sarcophagus found in Beirut that depicts the myth of Icarus, who is shown alongside his father Daedalus, making his ill-fated wings.

Another gem is an extraordinary hypogeum - an underground tomb - accidentally discovered by a farmer in the Tyre region in 1937.

It is covered with restored frescoes inspired by Greek mythology, including a scene of Priam on bended knee begging Achilles to return the body of Hector.

'Belongs to humanity'

"It was essential to show the public this heritage, which belongs to Lebanon and humanity, that was lying in our storage," said Afeiche.

All of the exhibits on display in the museum were excavated across Lebanon, which is rich with historical sites and artifacts.

They include a premolar from 70,000 BC belonging to the first known example of a homo sapiens in Lebanon, and stretch through to an 1830 Ottoman stele adorned with a turban.

Among the collection's flagship displays is a series of Phoenician sarcophagi dating from between the sixth and fourth century BC that were found in the southern region of Sidon.

"We're exhibiting 31 of these sarcophagi at the moment," which mix Greek and Egyptian styles, said Afeiche, noting that some of the sarcophagi found in Sidon are currently displayed in the Louvre.

This is "the largest collection of anthropoid sarcophagi in the world," she added.

But perhaps the most striking part of the exhibit is the unprecedented display of three mummies found in 1989 by cavers in the Qadisha Valley.

The area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and its cave-pocked sheer rock faces provided refuge for Maronite Christians persecuted during the Mamluk and Byzantine eras.

"They were discovered in a cave along with eight naturally mummified bodies" wearing the clothes of of women and children, in some cases the 13th-century silk embroidery still intact.

More treasures to display

Around them were nuts, onion skins, ceramics, bronze tools and documents written in Arabic and Syriac.

"They were psalms and liturgical chants that showed that these were Christians who had taken refuge in this cave," said Afeiche.

The three mummified bodies are particularly rare as Lebanon does not have a tradition of mummification, according to Marco Samadelli, director of the EURAC centre in Italy, who offered his expertise to help conserve the unique mummies.

Italy contributed 1.02 million euros ($1.1 million) to the project of restoring the museum's basement and collection, along with the expertise of leading archeologists including Antonio Giannarusti.

Even with the basement now open, the museum's storage areas contain plenty of undisplayed pieces and the culture ministry has plans for a new history museum in Beirut as well as museums in both Sidon and Tyre.

The new exhibition provides a timeline of burial techniques, from a 6000 BC Neolithic cradle tomb to a 4BC Chalcolithic burial jar found in Byblos.

Phoenician urns holding cremated remains are exhibited alongside a Byzantine-era tomb decorated with the face of the Virgin Mary from 440 AD.

"We believe this is the oldest representation of the Virgin discovered to date in Lebanon," said Afeiche.

The largest is the hypogeum from Tyre, with frescos reminiscent of Pompeii. One of its sides features an inscription: "Be brave, no one is immortal."


Watch the video: Tribute to Josef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš Operation Anthropoid (December 2021).