The Necropoli of Sidon

Sidon differs from other Phoenician cities in that its rich necropoli were almost completely pillaged by clandestine excavators during the 19th Century. Most of the works of art are now to be found at the Louvre, the Topkapi Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, and other museums in Europe.

The three main cemeteries of Sidon lie beyond the ancient city limits and were in use from the end of the 6th Century B.C. to the late Roman and early Christian eras. These are the necropolis of Magharet Abloun, the royal necropolis of Ayaa in the rocky foothills below what is now the village of Helalie, and the necropolis of Ain el Helwe to the southeast. None are open to visitors.

The famous sarcophagus of Echmounazzar ll was discovered in a small recess in the Necropolis of Magharet Abloun in 1855 and was transported to the Louvre soon afterwards. It was the first sarcophagus of a Phoenician king to be found, and it carried the most important Phoenician inscription yet discovered, that which recordsthe building of the Temple of Echmoun.

A large collection of sarcophagi from Sidon can be seen at the National Museum in Beirut. The most outstanding is the Ship Sarcophagus, so called because of a bas-relief representing Roman trading vessels of the early Christian era.


The "Ship Sarcophagus", found in Saida, can now be seen at the National Museum in Beirut.

Two types of sarcophagi were used simultaneously in Phoenicia. One was built in the shape of a house. The other, the anthropoid. was modeled after the human body. The largest find of anthropoid sarcophagi recorded was at Ain el Helwe, while the royal necropolis at Ayaa has yielded the most important group of marble sculptured sarcophagi yet found in Lebanon. Among these was the sarcophagus erroneously called the Alexander Sarcophagus (on display at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul) which is a striking example of sculpture and polychromy in the Greek style.

Even before the Hellenistic age, the influential position of Sidon in Persian times attracted scholars and artists from the Aegean region. Local artisans were trained by them and were thus influenced by Greek artistic forms.


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