• latw-219-1
    Marble head of bearded man. (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)
  • latw-219-2
    Marble head of bearded man, top view (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Marble head of bearded man

Third to fifth century AD, Late Roman
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 1674
Museum Inventory No.
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Human Figure
RT 61
Marble Road
B-Grid Coordinates
E11 / S17.3 *96.46
Head broken at neck. Framing the forehead “are three separate masses of hair…one in the center made up of two separate tiers, and two at the sides.…The forehead is plastically modeled with two horizontal bony masses.…Upon the surface are incised horizontal furrows, both in the center of the forehead, and just over the eyebrows.” Eyebrows are prominent. Of the eyes, “the pupil is a drilled pendent arc, the iris incised.” Under the eyes are pouches; and at each corner incised crow’s feet. Cheek folds terminate in crisp lines that extend from outer nostrils to outer mustache. The mustache is “heavy” and “curved,…neatly trimmed to follow the edge of the overhanging upper lip. Above the center of the lip the mustache is parted, leaving a small triangular bare spot.”…There is a short growth of beard under the lower lip, and then a bare area, before the voluminous thick curls of the chin. Here the beard falls in two tiers, one on the forward chin and one from underneath the jaw. Most of the curls are short. Deep drilling is used in the hair framing the brow and in the beard; and in both places there are ‘bridges’ or ‘hair struts.’ “The ears have a large opening and are deeply drilled.” Behind the masses of hair that frame the brow, the hair surface is unfinished: over the top and back of the head it is smoothly chiseled, and two rows of curls at the back of the neck are roughly defined. Just behind the central mass of hair over the brow are three incised letters in Greek: Χ Μ Γ. (Quotations are from Ramage in Hanfmann and Ramage 1978, 100). Preserved height 0.30 m.
The head was recovered resting face down in debris, which was evidently bedding for a Byzantine road of the seventh century AD or later; it probably belongs to a full statue. Features of the face and beard suggested to E. Wueste (unpublished MA thesis, University of California at Berkeley) that the statue probably represented an intellectual rather than an administrative official. The three letters, located on the unfinished top of the head and behind the crest of the central hair mass, would not have been visible from the front of the statue; they are an acronym, which signifies Christ born of Mary, and may refer to the Christian persuasion of either the sculptor or the subject. (The letters are not cited in Hanfmann and Ramage 1978 and earlier publications; after publication, their significance was queried by Manisa Museum Director H. Dedeoğlu.)
See Also
Greenewalt, “Introduction”. See also: R2 Cat. 92
Hanfmann and Ramage 1978, 100, no. 92 (with previous bibliography); Dedeoğlu 2003, 92, fig. For ‘hair struts,’ Hollinshead 1998; for the acronym, its interpretation, and bibliography, Smith 2002, 150-153.