Research project Abteilung für Alte Geschichte und Rezeptionsgeschichte der Antike
August 2018 - July 2022
funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation
Keywords: tomb robbing, roman law, funerary culture, memory, late antique statuary, spatial turn, biography of objects, urban transformations, image transformations, spolia, oblivion
From the later 3rd until the 6th century, tombs that had fallen into oblivion were frequently subject to robbery and spoliation. This phenomenon can be observed across the entirety of the late imperial and early medieval world. It is attested not only by a large quantity of legal, literary and epigraphic sources but also by archaeological evidence, since the marble decorations of tombs in particular were reused not only as spolia within walls and streets but also as décor elements within public (e.g. bath buildings, churches, latrines, fountains, nymphaea) and private buildings (villae and domus). For floors, funerary inscriptions were often visibly integrated (fig. 1) and grave reliefs, sarcophagi and even funerary statues of the deceased were reused as ornamenta for the late antique sculpture décor. The spoliation of tombs and the transferal and reuse of funerary material can therefore be connected with major transformations of cities and societies.