Performing Death in Tyre: The Life and Afterlife of a Roman Cemetery in the Province of Syria

Tomb Complexes 4 and 5, view from the back (to the north).
Tomb Complexes 4 and 5, view from the back (to the north).

Between 1959 and 1967, Chéhab excavated a Roman and Byzantine cemetery on the outskirts of Tyre in Lebanon. This cemetery proved to be one of the most extensive and best preserved in the region, but because of the political circumstances in Lebanon, the excavation and publication of the material were never completed. This article presents a reevaluation and analysis of this burial ground, with a particular focus on its spatial components. Through discussion of the funerary architecture and location, I illustrate the profound changes that took place in the first centuries of the principate in the Roman province of Syria. As the city centers of the province were monumentalized, the burial grounds outside the city walls received similar treatment. I argue that the tombs played a new role in the performance of civic identity and local power strategies. Unlike the standardized city centers of the Roman province, however, the tombs present a more diverse picture whereby Roman trends are combined with local elements and new fashions, ultimately resulting in a new style of burial.


DOI: 10.3764/aja.114.4.597