Palmyra Portrait Project: Palmyrene Women

Portraiture from Palmyra make up the largest corpus of representations of men, women and children from the Roman Imperial period outside of Rome.

One of the main aims of the Palmyra Portrait Project is to compile a corpus of all known Palmyrene portraits in a database developed in the project. The accumulation of the corpus benefits from the archive assembled by Harald Ingholt. Over several decades, he collected information on Palmyrene portraits; the locations of many of these are unknown today.

The study of the portraits offers a more widespread understanding of how identity was constructed in one of the Roman provinces. The portraits of Palmyrene women are highly local in their overall appearance and display a large diversity in representation. Components such as the decorated headband, the combination of various jewellery and brooches are extremely individualised and very unique to the Palmyrene portraiture. Palmyrene women are more frequently portrayed alone, but in many instances, they are also portrayed with their children, husbands, siblings or in larger family constellations. The portraits offer an insight to the roles played by Palmyrene women in society and in the Palmyrene family structures.

The portraits are analysed through their visual qualities in order to gain a broader understanding of the meeting with and reception of the portraits in ancient Palmyra. Furthermore, the funerary buildings, in which the portraits were once located, are examined in order to understand how the portraits were displayed and used in their original context.

PI: Assistant professor Signe Krag