From the Tombs into the City: Grave Robbing and the Reuse of Funerary Spolia in Late Antique Italy

  • Cristina Murer Freie Universität Berlin
Keywords: archaeology, art history, spolia, sculptures, grave altars, sarcophagus altars, Latium, Campania, reliefs, statues,


Archaeological evidence demonstrates that funerary spoil (e.g. sarcophagus lids, funerary altars, epitaphs, reliefs, and statues) were frequently reused to decorate the interiors of public and private buildings from the third to the sixth century. Therefore, the marble revetments of high imperial tombs must have been spoliated. Imperial edicts, which tried to stamp part the overly common practice of tomb plundering, confirm that the social practice of tomb plundering must have been far more frequent in late antiquity than in previous periods. This paper discusses the reuse of funerary spoil in privet and public buildings from Latium and Campania and contextualizes them by examining legal sources addressing tomb violation. Furthermore, this study considers the extent to which the social practice of tomb plundering and the reuse of funerary material in late antiquity can be connected with larger urbanist, sociohistorical, and political transformations of Italian cityscapes from the third to the sixth century.