Archaeologists Surprised To Find "Comic Book" Style Murals In Ancient Greco-Roman Tomb

The figures' actions and exclamations are narrated by text written in Aramaic, the local language of the Levant area, using the Greek alphabet. This strange combination of features is a unique display in Greco-Roman art. © CNRS HiSoMA

Aliyah Kovner 03 Oct 2018, 10:55

The chamber comprises of one large room and two funerary rooms, one of which contained a sizable basalt sarcophagus in excellent condition. The abundant paintings, featuring nearly 260 figures in various scenes, are present on three walls of the main chamber and appear to form a narrative that centers upon a tableau of a priest offering a sacrifice to the patron deities of Capitolias and Caesarea Maritima, the provincial capital of Judaea.

To the left of the entrance, one mural depicts gods reclining on beds, feasting on offerings brought by smaller humans while another shows a country landscape dotted with farmers tending to grapevines, gathering fruit, and plowing fields with oxen. Curiously, the next panel shows woodcutters chopping down several types of trees with the help of gods, an exceedingly rare occurrence in Greco-Roman imagery, say the researchers.

On the right wall, a painting shows the building of a stone wall, replete with stonecutters, foremen, laborers, and even several construction accidents. On the ceiling and near the center, there is a more traditional tableau of marine and Nile-based imagery featuring nymphs and symbols of the zodiac.

“Of course other Roman tombs from the Decapolis also offer sumptuous mythological decor, but none of them can hold a candle to this one in terms of iconography,” they shared in a press release sent to IFLScience.

“For all these reasons, the new painted tomb of Bayt Ras is an extraordinary record of religious, political, and social history, as well as an open window on the cultural interactions in a Greek city in the Roman Near East.”

The first results from their ongoing studies will be the presented at the International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan in January 2019.

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