Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool, World Museum
Rectangular ash chest, no inscription panel. The doors are flanked by laurel leaf trees, a garland hangs across the closed doors. There is a single berry near the centre of each leaf of the tree. Above the tree there is a rosette like a flower with a hollow centre, from which a garland emerges. The leaves of the garland are stylised laurel ones. Above the doors are two small garden birds fighting over a large insect, perhaps a grasshoper.
The back corners of the chest do not have the columns but a simple fascia moulding along the tops and bottom of the sides and along the top at the front. The lid has in the pediment decoration of an oak wreath with the taeniae spreading out to the corners of the pedimental space.The acroteria at the front corners have the form of the palmettes. Along the side of the lid there is a fascia moulding, divided by a single horizontal incised line. There are no acroteria at the back corners.
The upper parts of the chest were restored and it is not easy to identify the ancient parts. There may have been an inscription panel above the door. The combination of the door with the columns gives the ash chest the appearance of a miniature tomb while the tree on the sides may suggest a cemetery or a garden. The garland hanging above the door may have also derived from the actual decoration of the tombs. It is not certain why there is so much emphasis on the laurel and whether this is a connection to the god Apollo.
The relief is deep in the ancient parts and there is use of drilling. The restored parts match the original well but some of the motifs are not plausible: for example garlands do not emerge in ash chests from flowers and the type of insect is also not one used in Roman funerary chests. ( Roman examples of insects are much smaller and are most times butterflies or moths ).
The chest is decorated on its three sides, the back side is undecorated. There are no clamp holes and the top edges were not created to hold a lid, although the underside of the lid was shaped to fit onto the ash chest. The lid is of the roof shape with a low triangular pediment and acroteria at its front corners.
Ash chests of the design with corner columns and a door in the middle were particularly popular in the second half of the 1st century AD. The carving is of high quality and very elegant.