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Directing the faithful, structuring the sacred space: funerary epigraphy in its archaeological context in late-antique Tipasa

  • Stefan Ardeleanu (a1)

In 1972, an inscribed mensa mosaic was found in a late 4th-c. burial ground (‘Matarès necropolis’) outside the Algerian town of Tipasa. The text mentions the convivium, a meal celebrated here in pax et concordia (see no. 49 in the Appendix, where all the inscriptions are listed; fig. 1 in colour on p. 483). What makes this inscription so valuable is the fact that its archaeological context was still intact. A water basin southwest of the mensa and a channel linking both structures were quickly interpreted by scholars as proof of the well-attested refrigerium, a commemorative meal that was practiced periodically at tombs. The inscription from Tipasa is the only example which names this rite in situ, and the vivid marine mosaic — especially when flooded or ‘refreshed’ — supports the notion of a rich meal in an allusive manner. A similar example from the same cemetery (no. 51) shows the direct integration of an epitaph into such rites. There is no doubt that these installations reflect the rite of dining with the dead.

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Journal of Roman Archaeology
  • ISSN: 1047-7594
  • EISSN: 2331-5709
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-roman-archaeology
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