University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Sarcophagus [Object of the Day #110]

By: Lynn Makowsky


The Etruscans buried their dead in stone and terracotta sarcophagi that were often elaborately decorated. This carved Etruscan nenfro (a type of volcanic stone) sarcophagus is one of five in the Museum’s collection. The piece dates to the 3rd  century BC and comes from a tomb excavated at the site of Civita Musarna, Italy in 1898. The lid portrays a man reclining on cushions at a banquet holding an unidentified object. He wears a mantle, a type of loose garment, and a wreath on his head. Reclining banqueting effigies of the dead are commonly found on Etruscan sarcophagi lids during this period. The front of the chest depicts a pair of captivating sea monsters (ketoi) that were believed to have accompanied the deceased on their journey to the underworld. Traces of red paint are still visible on the back of the right figure.

Penn Museum Object #MS3488A
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