Summary of the conference ”Representations of Women and Children in Roman Period Palmyra”, 3rd of October 2016, Aarhus, Denmark.

By PhD student Sara Ringsborg

2016.10.10 | Christina Levisen

Photo: Sara Ringsborg.

Photo: Sara Ringsborg.

Photo: Sara Ringsborg.

Photo: Sara Ringsborg.

Part I of the two one-day conferences on Palmyrene women and children took place in Aarhus on October 3, 2016. The conference was organised by assistant professor Signe Krag and PhD student Sara Ringsborg within the framework of the Palmyra Portrait Project. The project is directed by Dr. Rubina Raja and financed by the Carlsberg foundation.

The invited speakers shed light on the role the family held primarily in the funerary sphere, but also in the public sphere of Palmyra. The speakers were Dr. Mary T. Boatwright, Andrea Raat, M.A., Dr. Eleonora Cussini, Dr. Agnes Henning, assistent professor Signe Krag and Sara Ringsborg, M.A.

The papers addressed family burial patterns in the tombs, which gave an overview of how families were structured in their final resting place in Palmyra. Here, several hypogea with in situ contexts were examined. Women seem to have been buried with the family of their husbands, but no consistent pattern are traceable. The context is certainly a central aspect to address in order to understand the funerary portraits better. The tower tombs and their representations of matrimony were also examined. We learn from the Palmyrene inscriptions that women are often mentioned, both in the funerary inscriptions and cession texts, but also in the public sphere, such as the Tariff. The beautiful jewellery items on the female funerary portraits were examined. These bear witness to the wealth of some Palmyrene families, but not many striking actual jewellery items seem to have been buried with the deceased. Comparative aspects were addressed with representations of women and children from Rome and Pannonia. The family functioned as the most central social unit in Palmyra. This is also explicitly expressed in the funerary portraits of children, which most often are depicted together with other family members.

The papers contributed to discussions about transmission. There is no top-heavy model forced down on Palmyrene society and its iconography. Rather, Palmyra had their own local portrait tradition and they had an impact on other societies, and not only the other way around.

Part II of this conference will take place in Aarhus on February 6, 2017. All papers will be published in Palmyrenske Studier, founded by Rubina Raja and published by Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters. 

Conference, History and achaeology