Station: [9] Model of a funerary way

This model of a Roman funerary way shows an idealised reconstruction of what cemeteries in Raetia and Noricum may have looked like. Cemeteries were typically located along the main roads outside of settlements. Even in the Roman provinces, graves were a direct reflection of the financial circumstances of the deceased. Some would simply be adorned by shrubs and flowers. Others were marked by a mound; wealthy families could even afford a grave monument. One beautiful example was found in the river Inn: this dolphin-decorated stone was once part of a larger monument. The model shows various kinds of burials and the burial ceremony itself. When someone died, the body would first be displayed at home for a period of mourning. It was then brought to a cremation site, known as an ustrinum. In the model this is located at the entrance to the cemetery. After cremation, the bones of the deceased were retrieved, cleaned and buried. Burial objects would be burned with the body or interred with its remains. Another form of cremation was the Bustum, in which the deceased was burned on a funeral pyre right over the burial site. Archaeologists can easily identify the sites where this ceremony took place, as the heat of the fire sealed the clay sides of the burial pit. Aside from cremation burials, the emergence of salvation-based religions and Christianity led to a growing number of body burials. In the model, these are represented by a number of graves.

Every cemetery had a stonemason’s workshop. The stonemason carved grave  monuments for wealthier clients. In his work “Trimalchio’s Dinner”, the Roman writer Petronius describes the social background of an elaborate tomb: During the meal, a wealthy host discusses the design of his own tomb with an architect: he wants a sundial to be fixed next to his name on the tomb. That way, any traveller passing the grave would not only read the name of the deceased, but also the time. This would enable travellers leaving the town to tell whether they could reach their destination before dusk.

In this satirical work, Petronius shows how important it was for Romans to immortalize their family name. Funerary monuments were an important way of keeping their memory alive for future generations.