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Reliquary Lid with Two Crosses

Early Byzantine
late 5th century - 6th century
9 cm x 35.5 cm x 26.8 cm (3 9/16 in. x 14 in. x 10 9/16 in.)

On view


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This marble lid for a miniature sarcophagus is shaped like a pitched roof with decorations called acroteria rising from each of the four corners. Architectural motifs like these recur over and over on sarcophagi from ancient Greece through to the middle ages. The small size suggests that this was a reliquary casket. There is a small hole drilled into one side, possible at a later date. Such holes were common features of this type of casket reliquary, as well as full-size reliquaries. Which were associated with holy relics. The hole allowed oil to be poured in, and then retrieved from exit holes that sometimes issued into troughs. The oil, having come into contact with the relics, thus became a sort of secondary relic, called a eulogia, which could be carried away in small containers such as the Dumbarton Oaks ampulla, BZ.1948.18. Alternately, pieces of cloth (brandeae) could be lowered into the caskets to touch the relics also producing eulogiae for pilgrims.

- J. Hanson

Antioch-on-the-Orontes, Publications of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity (Princeton, 1938) vol. 3, 124, no. 362, pl. 12.

Handbook of the Collection (Washington, D.C., 1946), 20, no. 16.

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 13, no. 20.

G. Vikan, Catalogue of the Sculpture in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection from the Ptolemaic Period to the Renaissance, Dumbarton Oaks Catalogues (Washington, D.C., 1995), 73-75, no. 30, pl. 30A, B.

C. Kondoleon, Antioch: The Lost Ancient City, exhibition catalogue, Worcester Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Oct. 7, 2000-Dec. 30, 2001, (Princeton, 2000), 225, no. 114.

Exhibition History
Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, "Selections of Sculpture from the Early Byzantine Period," Nov. 1995 - Aug. 1996.

Worcester, Mass., Worcester Art Museum, "Antioch: The Lost Ancient City," Oct. 7, 2000 - Feb. 4, 2001. Also, Cleveland Museum of Art, Mar. 18 - June 3, 2001, and Baltimore Museum of Art, Sept. 16 - Dec. 30, 2001.

Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, "Scattered Evidence: Excavating Antioch-on-the-Orontes," April 7-October 10, 2010.

Acquisition History
Acquired in Antioch by Antioch Expedition, Syria, season 1939 (field no. Pa70 - S557).

Antioch Expedition, 1939-1940.

Partial share,1940, of excavated finds and purchases from Antioch allotted to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss as members of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its Vicinity.

Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.