Studia Palmyreńskie — 12.2013

Page: 320
DOI article: DOI Page: Citation link:
License: Free access  - all rights reserved Use / Order
1 cm
Dagmara Wielgosz

imagine how one could paint with stone. This was possible in fact, as demonstrated by examples
from 3rd-century Palmyra.

Combinations of different colour marbles and other stones were used for decorative purposes
as floor and wali revetment all over the Roman Empire from the late Republican period onwards.
These precious materials from North Africa, Greece and Asia Minor also reached Palmyra, to be
used as architectural elements and interior revetment in important public buildings, as well as
wealthy private houses. The most spectacular examples come from a building known as either
Diocletian's Baths or Zenobia's Baths, excavated between 1953 and 1975 by a Syrian Archaeological
Mission directed by Adnan Bounni and subseąuently Khaled al-As'ad (Bounni 1971). The large
body of materiał from this complex has never been considered in terms of what it brings as an ar-
chaeological assemblage.

The first to study the marbles from the baths was Hazel Dodge (1988). Her research focused
mostly on marble pavement revetment. This is, however, only a part of the marble decoration that
was an integral element of the thermae. Also to be included are marble sculptures and wali intarsia.

The surviving marble decoration can be divided into three categories. The first of these is free-
standing statuary, which includes sculptures of divinities and statues of prominent people, most
likely emperors, governors, magistrates and local benefactors. From the iconographic point of
view they constituted a coherent group representing a standard repertory commonly reproduced
in the decorative scheme of Roman baths (Manderscheid 1981). The chronological span, based on
stylistic grounds, stretches from the end of the Hadrianic or early Antoninę period to the Severan
age. These sculptures also differ in the ąuality of the workmanship (Wielgosz 2010).

To identify the marble ąuarry sources, samples taken from the statues and elements of wali
revetment were subjected to standard petrographic and geochemical examination at the LAMA
laboratory of Iuav University of Venice and the KULeuven Centre for Archaeological Sciences.2

The results have shown that in the late Hadrianic or early Antoninę period, which is known
to have been a period of major economic prosperity for the city (Gawlikowski 1994: 31-33; Gaw-
likowski 1996:141), statues were imported to Palmyra from the famous workshops of Athens and
Dokimeion. These sculptures, madę of precious Pentelic and Dokimeian marbles, were generally
skilfully crafted and most of them present a finely polished surface. The list of statues includes
the torso of a statua lońcata and the lower part of an Aphrodite, both in Dokimeian marble, as well
as the lower part of an Apollo Kitharoidos, the head of another statuę of Apollo Kitharoidos and
the head of a Muse in Pentelic marble.

By way of contrast, most statues from the late 2nd and 3rd centuries were madę of cheap Pro-
connesian marble,3 which had become at this time the most common and widespread marble
throughout the Roman Empire. The workmanship of these sculptures is of much poorer ąuality,
exhibiting a simplified, deep carving of the garments. Included in this group are: an unfinished
Apollo or some other divinity and a togatus statuę, both in Proconnesian marble, as well as a female
statuę in Dokimeian marble, which according to Bounni was found in the foundation of a pool
(Bounni 1971:122).

The second category is floor revetment in opus sectile (sectilia pavimenta). As mentioned above,
this materiał was studied previously by Hazel Dodge, but her study was based exclusively on
macroscopic observation. She recognized most of the colour marbles used in the Baths, such as
marmor Carystium from Euboia, marmor Luculleum from Theos, marmor Carium from Iasos, lapis
porphyrites from the Egyptian Eastern Desert (Gebel Dokhan), marmor Synnadicum from Doki-
meion, marmor Numidicum from Simitthus (Numidia), rosso antico from Cape Tainaron (its ancient
name is uncertain), breccia di settebasi from Skyros (its ancient name is also unknown) and marmor
Lacedaemonium from Laconia (Andreoli et alii 2002; Lazzarini 2007). She failed to identify other
kinds, which are important from the chronological point of view: marmor Thessalicum from Thes-

2 I examined the statuę samples already in 2000 under the guidance of Lorenzo Lazzarini, whom I would like to thank
in this place. The architectural remains were studied in 2008-2009, when I was working for the Sagalassos project as
a Marie Curie Intraeuropean Fellow.

3 For the ąuarries, archaeometric features, and the use and distribution of Dokimeian, Pentelic and Proconnesian marble,
see several articles published in the proceedings of ASMOSIA conferences; also Asgari 1978; Fant 1989; Korres 1995.


Studia Palmyreńskie XII
loading ...