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Palmyrene loculus stele depicting a standing woman, Ra'ata

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek


The grave stele represents a standing woman, Ra’ata. Small fragments of the frame are missing from the lower part of the object. The portrait itself is slightly weathered, especially the face, and neck. The left hand, forearm and wrist are fragmented. A five-lined inscription, with traces of red pigment, is visible in the upper right corner. A five-lined inscription is visible in the upper right corner. Traces of red paint is visible in the inscription. A cloth is hanging in the background and by the feet of Ra’ata, a box and a basket are placed. Ra’ata is wearing a turban, head band, veil, himation, tunic and shoes. She is adorned with a great amount of jewellery.

Description of object

A woman, identified as Raʿata, is depicted frontally, standing on a framed stele with a projecting plinth. The object is well preserved, with only minor damage and wear. Small fragments of the frame are missing from the lower part of the object. The portrait itself is slightly weathered, especially the face and neck. The left hand, forearm and wrist are fragmented, but it is still possible to see detail highlighting the separation of the fingers. A five-lined inscription, with traces of red pigment, is visible in the upper right corner. The background is decorated with a cloth, hanging just behind the woman, that finishes at the same height as her thighs. The cloth is pinned on two sticks with rosettes at the top, with a palm branch projecting upwards from the two rosettes. Overall, the folds of the cloth are indicated by curving and oblique groups, while a zigzag shape falls behind each rosette at the top.

Two containers are visible either side of Ra’ata in the relief. To her right (the viewer’s left) there is a rectangular box, with two feet visible at the front, close to her feet. The lid of the box is open and the inside of the lid is decorated with an incised crisscross pattern. Inside the box, four rounded objects are visible: these objects are indicated by deep grooves. The outside of the box is also decorated, mainly with a garland pattern, indicated by incisions and the inclusion of circular carvings into the surface, mimicking the hanging posts from which the garlands would be strung in real life. On the other side of the relief (her left, the viewer’s right), a conical-shaped basket on foot is depicted. Objects are depicted lying inside the basket and something, perhaps a piece of garment, seems to be falling out of the basket, covering most of the upper part of it. An incised crisscross pattern is used to decorate the upper panel of the basket. Centrally on the basket, a band with a vegetable pattern, is running horizontally. The lower part of the basket, including the foot, is decorated by diagonal lines indicated by grooves going in each direction.

Raʿata herself is depicted as being taller than the relief monument itself, exceeding the height of the background.

She is wearing a veil, turban and a head-band. She has long hair, which is visible on both sides of the headdress, just above the ears. Her forehead is flattened and the eyebrows are indicated by ridges. The eyelids are heavy, and her eyes are large and almond-shaped. Her nose is straight and the mouth is small, while her chin is slightly protruding and her neck is wide and thick. Her arms are under proportioned in comparison to the rest of her body. The right arm is flexed and held to the right chest; a finger, her right index finger and thumb, are extended, while the rest are curled at the¨mid-finger joint. The left arm is flexed and held horizontally in front of the torso. All fingers are extended and fingernails are indicated. Raʿata is wearing a long tunic with short sleeves, her garment being elaborately decorated in the manner of the so-called ’Parthian style’, which usually is reserved to the adult male portraits only and in a few cases the young boys. Two beaded bands framing a band with a floral pattern are visible on the right chest. Furthermore, the right sleeve of the tunic is decorated with horizontally positioned beaded bands. The lower part of the tunic clearly indicates her legs by long vertical folds between her legs and then heavy semi-circular folds, indicated by ridges, down her legs, all the way to her ankles. She is also wearing a himation, which is pinned by the left shoulder with a brooch. A fold is visible by the waist, possibly created by a belt. The folds leading diagonally up to the brooch are indicated by ridges. She is also wearing boots. Vertical lines, perhaps straps, are visible on top of the boots. Raʿata is wearing a veil on top of her turban. The veil is long and falls all the way to the ground. The veil covers her left shoulder and arm. She is wearing a turban or a head cloth on the top of her head, with small beads attached to it along the lower edge. Beneath the turban, Raʿata is wearing a wide head-band across the forehead. The head band is decorated with floral and crisscross patterns divided into rectangular panels by vertical lines. Futhermore, Raʿata is adorned with a variety of jewellery. She is wearing earrings in the shape of a bunch of grapes attached to a chain. Furthermore, three rings are attached to the helix of her left ear. She is wearing five necklaces: a beaded choker, a double-beaded necklace, two necklaces with large oval beads, and one in between consisting of large circular beads. Her brooch is placed on her left breast and is composed of a circular head, a trapezoidal body with three strings of pendants attached to it. The right arm is adorned with a forearm clasp decorated with vertical incisions and a wide bracelet around the wrist. She also wears anklets, two anklets around each ankle, one of which has a central beaded inlay. She also has a plain, wide-hoop ring on her left ring finger.

Inscription: ḤBL | R/D ʿTH | BRT | MQYMW |ʾʿWYD – Palmyrian Arabic

Alas! Raʿata Daughter of Moqîmû ʾAʿwîd CIS: 4320 PAT: 0677

Choice of methods


  • Microscopy


Ingholt Archive

D. Simonsen (1899), Skulpturer og Indskrifter fra Palmyra, København, 13, pl. V.

E. Kalinka (1906), Antike Denkmäler in Bulgarien, Wien, 241.

P.F.S Poulsen (1921), De palmyrenske skulpturer, Tidsskrift for Konstvetenskab, 89-90.

H. Ingholt (1928), Studier over Palmyrensk Skulptur, København, 133, PS 379.

H. Ingholt (1932), Quelques Fresques Récement Décoovertes á Palmyre, Acta Archaeologia, 10, fig. 4.

D. Mackay (1949), The Jewellery of Palmyra and its Significance, Iraq XI, 181, pl. LXI,1.

M.A.R. Colledge (1976), The Art of Palmyra, London, 62, 67, 97, 129, 152, 156, 215, 239, pl. 74.

K. Parlasca (1976), Probleme Palmyrenischer Grabreliefs: Chronologie und Interpretation, in E. Frézouls (ed.) Palmyre: Bilan et perspectives. Colloque de Strasbourg, 18-20 Octobre 1973, Travaux du centre de recherche sur le Proche-Orient et la Grèce antiques 3, 36 taf. 5.

I. Browning (1979), Palmyra, London, 40-41, fig. 13.

F.O. Hvidberg-Hansen & G. Ploug (1993), Palmyra Samlingen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, København, 86, no. 44.

G. Ploug (1995), Catalogue of Palmyrene Sculptures, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 120-122, no. 44.

F.O. Hvidberg-Hansen (1998), The Palmyrene Inscriptions. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 51-52, no. 44.

S. Krag (2017), Changing identities, changing positions: Jewellery in Palmyrene female portraits, in Long, T., and Sørensen, A.H. (eds.), Positions and Professions in Palmyra, Palmyrenske Studier 2, Copenhagen, 39-40, fig. 5.

  • IN 1030
  • Stele
  • c. 130-150 C.E.
  • Roman Imperial
  • Limestone
  • Acquired by Løytved in Syria. Original grave context unknown.
  • Overall, H: 42 cm.; W: 27.5 cm.; D: 13.5 cm. Figure, H: 38.5 cm.; W: 14 cm.; D: 6 cm. Head, H: 7.5 cm.; W: 7 cm.; D: 7 cm.

Selected photos

  • In_1030_col
  • In_1030_col_02
  • In_1030_col_03
  • In_1030_col_04_1_
  • In_1030_col_05
  • In_1030_col_06
  • In_1030_col_detail_1_