(Reconstruction of a) burial chamber. Part of a large limestone family tomb (for 219 people) built in 108 AD by a rich Palmyrene named ‘Yarhai, son of Elahbel’. More than 100 similar tombs, some for up to 400 deceased, form a one kilometer long necropolis called the ‘Valley of the Tombs’.
Over the 133 years following 108 AD, more than 100 people were buried in the Yarhai tomb, which was restricted to members of his family; then, in 241 AD, perhaps because of straitened circumstances or reduced clan numbers, unused ‘loculi’ in the entrance chamber were sold off to another line entirely.
Burial slots were designed as drawers stacked in up to six rows; the deceased were represented by sculptural portraits (in frontal pose, about 40 x 55 cm) projecting from the surface of the graves, giving the impression of looking out of a window. Inscriptions in Ancient Greek and in the language of Palmyra (Aramaean and Arabic) on one-third of the tombs reveal the identity of the person (Yarhai) who has ordered the tomb to be built, and give information about the common tombs shared by the family or the relatives and the distribution of the tombs in the 1st-3rd centuries AD. Some were merchants, army commanders, high ranking officials or priests of Palmyra.
Correspondent: J.M.Criel, Antwerpen.
Source: Istanbul Archaeological Museums