Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 597–608 | Cite as

Provenance investigation of Roman marble sarcophagi from Nicopolis, Epirus, Greece: revealing a strong artistic and trade connection with Athens

  • Dimitris TambakopoulosEmail author
  • Theodosia Stefanidou-Tiveriou
  • Eleni Papagianni
  • Yannis Maniatis
Original Paper


A large number of marble sarcophagi have been discovered in the extensive cemeteries of ancient Nicopolis, ranging in date from the Hadrianic period to the middle of the third c. AD. The archaeological study, based on typological and stylistic criteria, indicates that many sarcophagi are imported from Athens, while a large part seems to be the product of local workshops that often follows closely Attic models. In order to identify securely the marble used for the sarcophagi, and therefore the sources used by the local workshops, 14 representative sarcophagi from the Archaeological Museum of Nicopolis were sampled and subjected to full scientific provenance analysis. This involved a combination of (a) in situ examination of the whole objects using optical techniques for measuring grain sizes and translucency, and recording of inclusions, veins and other features; (b) stable isotope analysis; and (c) electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. The results revealed a clear preference in the Pentelic marble: 12 out of 14 sarcophagi made in that marble, while 1 sarcophagus was made of marble from Thasos and 1 of an unidentified grey, coarse-grained, dolomitic marble. Pentelic marble was identified in sarcophagi considered as imports from Attica—as expected, but also in local products following attic models, with or without incorporating motifs from other places. This wide use of Pentelic marble for the local production, as well as the importation of Attic finished products, both luxurious options, designates the overall economic prosperity of Roman Nicopolis, but also its close trade and artistic connections with Athens.


Marble provenance Attic sarcophagi Local workshops EPR Stable isotopes Optical examination 



We would like to express our warmest thanks to the former Director of the Ephorate of Ioannina and excavator of Nicopolis K. Zachos, to the former Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Preveza Ch. Merkouri and to the archaeologist of the Ephorate of Preveza D. Sakkas for their help and support. We would like also to thank D. Terzopoulou who read carefully and corrected the archaeological part of the English text.

Funding information

This work was co-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF)—European Union and the Greek State under the “ARISTEIA II” action of the Operational Programme “Education and Lifelong Learning” [Sculpture and Society in Roman Greece: political, economic and religious context].


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of ArchaeometryInstitute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, NCSR “Demokritos”Aghia ParaskeviGreece
  2. 2.Department of Archaeology and HistoryAristotle University of ThessalonikiThessalonikiGreece

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