Queen's University

Craftsmanship and Identity in the Hellenistic Funerary Reliefs of Naples: An Archaeological and Archaeometric Analysis: Craftsmanship and identity in the Hellenistic funerary reliefs of Naples

Photo of Hellenistic reliefs made from Paros and Carrara marble. Seven Hellenistic stelae with Greek inscriptions found in the ancient city of Naples, were examined minero-petrographically (by optical microscopy on thin sections and XRD on powder) and geochemically (by stable isotope ratio analysis), in order to determine the provenance of the constituent marbles. Based primarily on epigraphic evidence, all stelae appear to date from the 1st century BC and the Early Imperial period, so they are later than those of Ancona, which are the only possible comparison in Italy. Archaeologists have compared the stelae of Naples and Ancona to the products of Greek Delian workshops. The results of the laboratory analyses demonstrate the use of Parian marbles (from Lakkoi and Stephani) only for three stelae, whereas the Lunense marble from Carrara was employed for the remaining four reliefs. The research outcomes suggest that local workshops used small imported blocks of Aegean and Apuan marble. The use of reliefs of a Hellenistic type can be put in the context of a more general response of the community of Naples to the city's new status as a Roman municipium and as part of its cultural strategy to be regarded as an 'authentic' Greek city. By emphasizing its Hellenic origin, at both the private/funerary and institutional/public level, the city of Naples was able to differentiate itself from other Campanian centres and to promote itself in relation to Rome. (Read More)