Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Funerary procession

Cat. No.





Agia Triada, hilltop cemetery


Sarcophagus L: 1.375-1.385 m; H: 89.5 cm; W: 45 cm L: c. 25 cm


Limestone larnax with painted figural scenes. Ship on side A (front)

Accession Number

Herakleion Archaeological Museum


Karo 1912: col. 1787; Long 1974; Marinatos 1933: pl. XIII.18; Paribeni 1908; Wachsmann 1998: 102, 104, fig. 6.32; 2019: 22, fig. 20a-b; Watrous 1991: 290-291, pl. 83:a, c; Wedde 2000: 319, no. 606

Crescentic section of a hull. The keel line and gunwale curve up and join to a pointed extremity. The left post is missing. The hull is decorated with near vertical strokes along the entire preserved length.

This example is unique amongst larnakes in terms of its material, polychromy, narrative and decorative elements as well as overall composition and style. It was painted in tempera on ground of fine smooth plaster typically used in wall painting as was thus adorned by a fresco painter in the older Minoan painting tradition (realism, narrative). In addition, the decorative rosette border of the sarcophagus was first sculpted in bas-relief, while the blue used was made of powdered lapis lazuli, the only attestation of this pigment in the Aegean.

The front panel of the sarcophagus shows two distinct scenes. On the left there is a procession of women approaching a krater set between two double axes on stands, with the first woman making a libation to the deceased. On the right, three men carry models of calves and a boat to a deceased man who stands before the entrance of his tomb. The two processions are arranged back to back proceeding outward, which helps separate the scenes. The stiff armless pose of the person in front of the tomb identifies him as the deceased. The back panel shows a procession of women accompanying a bull sacrifice and a libation at an altar, while the side panel features a pair of chariot-borne goddesses.

In light of the unusual material used and the fact that the scenes are unparalleled in Aegean art, a comparison has been made to Egyptian funerary rites which typically include a procession of offering bearers and a display of the deceased (mummified) receiving his last rites in front of his tomb. The extent of the Egyptian influence continues to be a matter of disagreement, while and Long has stressed elements of traditional Minoan funerary beliefs (Martino 2005; Long 1974).

Karo, G. 1912. “Kreta,” in RE XI, cols 1718-1802.

Long, C. 1974. The Ayia Triada Sarcophagus: A Study of Late Minoan and Mycenaean Funerary Practices and Beliefs. Göteborg: P. Åström.

Marinatos, S. 1933. “La marine créto-mycénienne,” BCH 57: 170-235.

Paribeni, R. 1908. “Il sarcofago dipinto di Hagia Triada,” Monumenti Antichi pubblicati per cura della Reale Accademia dei Lincei 19, cols 5-86.

Wachsmann, S. 1998. Seagoing Ships & Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

―――. 2019. “On the interpretation of Watercraft in ancient Art,” Arts 8.165: 1-67.

Watrous, L.V. 1991. “The Origin and Iconography of the Late Minoan Painted Larnax,” Hesperia 60.3: 285-307.

Wedde, M. 2000. Towards a Hermeneutics of Aegean Bronze Age Ship Imagery. Peleus Studien zur Archäologie und Geschichte Griechenlands und Zyperns, vol. 6. Bibliopolis: Mannheim and Möhnsee.

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