Book Series Studies in Palmyrene Archaeology and History, vol. 7

Carvers and Customers in Roman Palmyra

The Production Economy of Limestone Loculus Reliefs

Julia Steding

  • Pages: xiv + 294 p.
  • Size:216 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:49 b/w, 39 col., 23 tables b/w., 1 maps color
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2022

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59785-0
  • Paperback
  • Available

This volume is a study on the production processes of the largest group of funerary representation, the loculus reliefs in Palmyra.


Julia Steding is a classical archaeologist at Aarhus University. She holds a Bachelor in Archaeology from the University of Groningen and a Master in Classical Archaeology and the Archaeology of the Roman Provinces from the University of Cologne. She obtained her doctoral degree in 2020 at Aarhus University. Her field of research is Roman funerary art from Italy and the Near East.


Palmyra, located in the Syrian desert, is famous for the portraiture of its citizens, produced when the ancient city was at the height of its powers in the Roman era. At this time, several hundred funerary monuments were built and the Palmyrenes decorated their tombs with numerous portraits. The most common of these are the loculus reliefs that depicted Palmyra’s men, women, and children, and were used to close off the niches in tombs behind which the dead were buried. Between AD 50 and AD 273, these stone slabs were produced in sufficient numbers to make Palmyra home to the largest corpus of funerary portraits outside Rome itself.

This volume offers a fresh and nuanced analysis of Palmyrene funerary reliefs and their production in order to shed light not just on the people they depicted, but on the individuals responsible for their creation. Across a range of different case studies, the author explores the making of single portraits from the local limestone, examining how Palmyrene carvers worked, the techniques they used, the tools they employed, the ways in which style and technique changed over time, and the mode of production that was in place. Furthermore, the workshops’ organization, the interaction between carvers and customers, and their influence on the portraits are explored. In doing so, the volume offers not just a detailed study of limestone carving and the techniques that underpinned Palmyra’s famous portraits, but also offers a significant contribution to wider research on funerary portraiture of the city and in Roman Syria.


Table of Contents

List of Figures


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: The Palmyrene Graves and the Placement of the Reliefs

Chapter 3: The Toolset of the Palmyrene Carvers

Chapter 4: The Chronological Development of the Toolset

Chapter 5: Palmyra’s Economy: Producing Loculus Reliefs

Chapter 6: Palmyrene Customers: Ordering and Buying a Loculus Relief

Chapter 7: The Palmyrene Workshops and Craftspeople

Chapter 8: Regional and Transregional Comparisons

Chapter 9: Conclusion


Catalogue of Studied Loculus Reliefs

Appendix I. Size of Loculus Reliefs

Appendix II. Tool Traces

Appendix III. Additional Elements


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