The Polyxena Sarcophagus, discovered during a rescue excavation in 1994 at the Kızöldün tumulus, Gümüşçay district near Biga, Çanakkale province. 

Ionian Late Archaic, ca. 520-500 BCE, Proconnesian marble. This sarcophagus contained the skeleton of an adult male, and is the earliest stone sarcophagus with figures to be found in Anatolia. These figures are carved onto all four sides, and the lid is carved to resemble a pitched roof.

On the front, the Greeks sacrifice Polyxena at the tomb of Achilles. The girl twists and screams as the soldiers hold her still; Trojan women tear their hair and rend their garments.

Where the modern eye might focus on the tragedy of a young girl’s murder, in its original context the bloodthirsty ghost of the hero is at least as important. It follows that what might appear to us as an image of unmatched brutality could, to Greek eyes, have seemed more like a case of extreme piety.

-Richard Neer in Greek and Roman Animal Sacrifice: Ancient Victims, Modern Observers (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Artefact courtesy of & currently located at the Çanakkale Museum, Turkey. Photos taken by Dan Diffendale.

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