The Painted Tomb at Jansour in Roman Libya: Rare Iconography of Journeys in the Underworld

Kyle Griffith
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Lying in the region of North Africa known in the ancient world as Tripolitania, the painted tomb-chamber at Jansour is part of a newly documented hypogeum or series of subterranean tombs dating to the Roman period, circa 1st century BCE. The rare nekia scenes are unique in terms of art and represent a very different view of afterlife beliefs from any extant tomb decoration we have from this period. The entire vaulted tomb is painted in vibrant fresco, and in double narrative registers, shows stories of overcoming death and breaking free from the Underworld. The tomb paintings reflect a symbiotic mixture of cults flourishing in this province of Rome and the architectural structure suggests it may also have served as a sacred space where the living and the dead could commune. Previously unknown before my research with the exception of a few locals, I carried-out fieldwork on the hypogeum, including a thorough photographic record, measurements and inventory of the site, in June, 2001 and May-June, 2002-2003

Keywords: Original research by author, Tomb in Roman Libya, Tripolitania, Jansour, hypogeum, new nekia scenes, mystery rituals/cults, history of Roman provinces in N. Africa, fresco, Underworld
Stream: History, Historiography, Religion, Spirituality
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Kyle Griffith

Art History Ph.D. candidate, Art History, School of Art, Classical Archaeology, University of Washington

Ph.D. Candidate Department of Art History. Field: Classical Archaeology/ Classical Prototypes Renaissance. Dissertation: African Caravan Routes and the Animal Trade. Ph.C. Art History, M.A. Art History, Ancient. B.A. History, cum laude, with minor in Classical Studies B.A. Art History, cum laude

Ref: H05P0778