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Palmyra Portrait Project’s work retreat, Rome 28th-30th November 2017

Summary by PhD students Julia Steding & Sara Ringsborg.

Group portrait of the Palmyra Portrait Project-team in Rome.
Work in progress at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Rom.
Working photo from the team's visit to the Vatican.

Members of the Palmyra Portrait Project, director Rubina Raja, assistant professor Signe Krag, scientific employees Christian Svejgård Jørgensen and Olympia Bobou, as well as PhD students Julia Steding and Sara Ringsborg had the pleasure of attending a work retreat in Rome from 28th to 30th of November. The Carlsberg Foundation generously funds the Palmyra Portrait Project. The purpose of the trip was to gather and discuss a variety of aspects in detail concerning the database and all other work, which is being undertaken by the members, in preparing the corpus for final publication. We were fortunate to sit and work at Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Rom, Accademia di Danimarca, and Det Norske Institutt i Roma during the week, and we are very grateful that the institutes opened their doors for us. Here, we had the opportunity to discuss the many tasks, which are in front of us, and the large progress the team members already have done with the corpus as well as the individual projects of the members.

We also visited two of the Roman museums, who have Palmyrene portraits in their collection: Musei Vaticani and Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco. Here, we took the time to discuss aspects of iconography, epigraphy and techniques of each portrait in detail. We thank the museums for giving us the permission to take measurements and photographing the portraits in detail for further investigations.

Furthermore, we visited the Vatican necropolis, which today lies under the Saint Peter’s basilica. Here, we witnessed a necropolis consisting of both pagan and Christian burials from the first centuries CE. Well-preserved smaller ‘house’-constructions were decorated with colourful wall paintings and stucco. Further, they contained niches for sculpture and sarcophagi. The state of preservation is really good and gave us an idea of the interplay between paintings, stucco, reliefs and depictions of the deceased within the grave context.