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Workshop: Attributes in Palmyrene Art and Sculpture

Organised by Visiting Professor Maura Heyn (University of North Carolina - Greensboro) and Professor Rubina Raja (Aarhus University).


Date Tuesday 19 June 2018   
Time 9:00-18:30 (coffee from 8:30)  
Location  Studenterhus Aarhus, Nordre Ringgade 3, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark (Richard Mortensen Stuen)


Palmyrene art and sculpture display a variety of attributes. Over the past years, the rich funerary sculptural corpus, in particular, has been studied in detail, and much new information has been gained about attributes carried and worn by deceased Palmyrenes and their family members. While attributes in the art of the religious sphere have often been addressed in scholarship, the funerary sculpture and public sculpture have rarely stood at the centre of attention.This workshop will, therefore, focus on the sculpture and the attributes in general in Palmyra, with a focus on the funerary sculpture.

Palmyrenes display a variety of objects in their funerary, public and religious portraits in the first three centuries CE. Women hold items that are associated with the domestic sphere: spindle and distaff, keys, a child, an unusual object that may be a calendar and, occasionally, a palm leaf. Most men hold a book roll in their left hand, and a few display other items such as swords and whips and have, therefore, been associated with caravan trade, although there is no hard evidence for such connections. Men also occasionally hold a twig or a branch in their hands. Palmyrene priests often carry a jug (libation pitcher) and an incense bowl. They wear the distinctly Palmyrene priestly hat and often a large and decorated brooch, which became part of their complete attire, holding their cloaks together.

These items, displayed by men and women, were presumably intended to communicate information about the deceased to the community. The character of this information is not straightforward, however – particularly since most of the female attributes drop out of use at the end of the second century. After this time, most women grasp, if anything, a loop of their cloak and often set themselves apart by their quantities of jewellery. It seems unlikely that this change in style correlates with a change of role in the household or community. But it does communicate a switch in display and representation.

The aim of this workshop is to bring together experts working on Palmyra, in order to explore in detail a range of the attributes in Palmyrene art and sculpture to begin to understand these better in their overall urban context over the three centuries in which Palmyra flourished. 

Confirmed speakers

  • Albertson, Fred C. (University of Memphis)
  • Bobou, Olympia (Aarhus University)
  • Heyn, Maura (University of North Caroline - Greensboro) - organiser
  • Kristensen, Nathalia B. (Aarhus University)
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Sokolowski, Lukasz (University of Warsaw)
  • Yon, Jean-Baptiste (Laboratoire HiSoMA)

Practical information for speakers


Please make your own travel arrangements to/from Aarhus. After your visit, your travel expenses will be reimbursed (only economy class). Please fill out this travel reimbursement form and return it (preferably in Excel-format) to Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk) along with scanned copies of your receipts and boarding passes (no need to send the originals).­


We have organised accommodation at:

Hotel Comwell
Værkmestergade 2
8000 Aarhus C

Transport to conference venue

You can catch Bus 100, 117 or 118 from the bus terminal (directions from hotel), or you can backtrack your way to the railway station and take Bus 1A, 18 or 14 (18 and 14 leave from Park Allé). Get off at the stop "Aarhus Universitet, Randersvej/Nordre Ringgade" and cross the intersection. You will find Studenterhus Aarhus a couple of hundred metres up the road (see map).

Dinner and diet

A speakers’ dinner has been organised 19 June, and will of course cater for you during the workshop. If you have any dietary restrictions (e.g. allergies), please let Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk) know in advance, so that we can notify the caterers.