Palmyrene funerary relief These portraits today represent the only extensive surviving collection of community funerary portraiture with accompanying inscriptional genealogies extant from a tribally based urban context in the ancient classical Near East. busts were first produced in Palmyra in the middle of the first century CE as decorative slabs closing the burial niches inside underground tombs.[1] The reliefs were carved into square pieces of limestoneand depicted figures in a direct frontal pose cut off at mid-torso. Arms and hands were portrayed in various gestures and poses. Most busts display a solitary figure, however some sculptures incorporate multiple figures of family members. Names and lineage of the deceased are engraved in Aramaic above the shoulders, and in some cases, with Greek [2] or Syriac. It is believed that Palmyrene funerary busts were created as symbolic decoration rather than portrayals of physical likeness.[3] There is little individualization in the representation of figures, and like most ancient portraits the facial features are idealized. Male figures are depicted wearing a himation and chiton. The right arm is often wrapped in the himation with the hand placed on the chest. The left hand sometimes holds an attribute, often a scroll or leaf. Female busts are depicted wearing a tunic, cloak and veil. The right hand is often raised to the chin or cheek, sometimes holding the veil. Some female figures are depicted with the left hand holding an attribute conveying domesticity, such as a spindle or distaff.[4] There are also instances where some female figures are portrayed holding a looped fold of the cloak.[5] Female busts were sometimes shown with an outward palm. This is believed to be a gesture to ward off evil or related to involvement in religious rituals.[6] Small-scale depictions of children are sometimes shown behind the parent. Some variation in gestures and attributes allude to the individual’s profession, wealth, or family roles.[8] Male figures with a scroll or leaf are common and convey very little about individual identity. However, rare depictions portray a sword or whip indicating a caravan trader.[9] Priests are identified by their modius, a cylinder shaped cap, and are usually portrayed holding objects such as a jug or vessel.[6] Double portrait busts are sometimes depicted with one figure’s arm around the shoulder of the other alluding to family ties and affection between figures.[10] Several known double portrait busts depict a female figure with long hair, an exposed breast, and an arm over the shoulder of a male figure. These busts are believed to convey a wife mourning her deceased husband.[11] Another common theme for funerary reliefs is depicting favored objects and/or events that brought joy to the deceased during their lifetime.[12] Such as a funerary relief depicting a merchant alongside with his camel,[12] which shows that he had a very close tie with the animal whom he probably frequently traveled with, that he chose to be depicted and remembered with this animal in death.[12] Other examples of this are the funerary reliefs that depict certain family events favored by the deceased such as a meal or domestic settings portraying the family seated in their house reclining on a couch.[12]  Mummification Oriental silks were utilized especially in Palmyrene funerary contexts where they were cut into long strips with which to wrap individual mummies. These bodies had been chemically treated with bitumen and spices to preserve the flesh and the outward appearance of the deceased for as long as possible. While the chemical composition of the Palmyrene mummification process differed from that of the Egyptian, many Palmyrene mummies remain viable in their preserved state today.
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