As a matter of course, only the most beautiful or most telling artifacts find their way to the exhibition space of the museum, here as well as elsewhere. However, my hands are often itching to take a look inside their basement and browse the dusty shelves in search of forgotten or overlooked treasures.
Take, for instance, the collection of sarcophagi accumulated over the past two hundred years or so, some of which still contain the untouched bones and grave goods of their owners.
One such an impressive marble sarcophagus decorated with Amazons in battle was deterred in 1929. Inside are the bones of a woman, probably of Athenian origin as her gold signet ring carries the name of Ellada (ΕΛΛΑΔΙ). The grave goods belonging to the 4th century AD were gathered and recorded to be stored away in the basement of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
The same fate was shared by a series of 300 other marble sarcophagi collected from several cemeteries and excavation sites. Most of them belong to high ranking Roman citizens who died between the first and the third century AD. Common grave goods were gold rings, jewelry depicting the god Asclepius, pendants with the effigy of Tyche/Fortuna and a pendant in the shape of an oil lamp.
The only exception seems to be a couch-shaped sarcophagus that was discovered intact in 1837 near the Kalamaria Gate. It contained the bones of a couple, a wooden box holding gold jewels and a magic inscription on a gold sheet. This precious tomb was “acquired” by the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna. I hope that it found a worthy place in that museum at least?
Another rare artefact is the gold ring with a sardonyx stone in which the joined hands of a man and a woman have been carved out and enhanced with the inscription OMONIA. In Roman times, the image symbolized the handshake to seal an agreement or a contract but in this case since it was used on a ring it is thought to be a wedding ring. It was the custom for the bride to wear such a ring on the middle finger of her left hand as the Romans thought that the vein from that finger ran straight to the heart.
storerooms have been opened
in order to digitize their archaeological content and this is obviously a
proper opportunity to study these earlier finds. Who knows what exciting
discoveries there are to be made! Thessaloniki