Gesture and Identity in the Funerary Art of Palmyra

Funerary portrait of mother and son from Palmyra.
Funerary portrait of mother and son from Palmyra.

The funerary art from Palmyra, a city in the eastern Roman empire, offers us a glimpse into the creation of social identity in the aftermath of Roman conquest. The Palmyrene portraits are modeled on the Roman funerary relief but with interesting local variations. For example, the deceased in these portraits hold their hands in a number of different positions. An analysis of these gestures reveals that some highlight certain aspects of the individuals represented, such as gender, profession, and family connections. The emphasis on these characteristics shows the multifaceted ways in which they defined themselves, and moves us beyond interpretations of identity that focus on a dichotomy between local and Roman.

Mortuary    Sculpture    Roman Period    Iconography    Gender   

DOI: 10.3764/aja.114.4.631