Palmyrene funerary relief busts were first produced in Palmyra in the middle of the first century CE as decorative slabs closing the burial niches inside the tombs. The reliefs were carved into square pieces of limestone and 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. Some of those in large sizes often referred to as the funeral banquet scenes. Names and lineage of the deceased are engraved in Aramaic above the shoulders, and in some cases, with Greek [or Syriac.
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.
Priests are identified by their modius, a cylinder-shaped cap, and are usually portrayed holding objects such as a jug or vessel.