Ash Chest



Rectangular ash chest, decorated at the front only. The sides are smooth but undecorated and the inner and back cavity roughly worked. The ash chest was not shaped to have a lid. The inscription is modern and copied from a marble table in the Galleria Lapidaria of the Vatican Museums: D. M RVTILIA ROMANA ANIMAE BENE MERENTI To the Shades, Rutilia Romana to (for) her well deserving soul. The first letter D and M are bigger than the rest of the ones in the inscription. The simplicity of the letters suggest that they are of the 18th century. The deep cut of the inscription is also a sign that it was added after the original inscription was completely eroded. Traces of the letters of the original inscription can be seen underneath as the surface was not smoothened before the new inscription was added: D M S L A O AorB E? At the front corners of the ash chest the columns are made of twisted plant stems with leaves forming the base and buds or flowers the capitals. The framed inscription seems to take too much space in between the stems. Below it there are two opposed facing griffins with a candelabrum or a thymiaterion in between them. The heads of the griffins turn back and look over their shoulders towards the corners. Many of the details have been worn but the beaks of the griffins, the crests and large wings are distinct. There is a flame burning on top of the candelabrum. Twisted plant stems was a motif used in many ash chests as an alternative to columns. Beaked griffins associate with the god Apollo. Candelabra, similarly to torches were important in funerary rituals and incense burners were used in religious rituals. Perhaps the combination of candelabrum with the griffins is suggestive of a protective or sacred purpose. The ash chest is in a poor condition and it is difficult to comment on its style. The corner twisted plants are popular in chests from the end of the 1st century AD to the end of the 2nd century AD and griffins with a candelabrum in between are popular from the mid 1st century AD and continue well into the 2nd century AD.